Okinawans protest Japan policy on US occupation of Okinawa

April 28, 2013

While the Japanese mainland celebrated Sunday, Okinawans staged a protest rally over the national 61st anniversary of the country receiving its postwar independence through a treaty with the United States.

Many here see Tokyo’s decision in 1952 to allow the continued U.S. occupation of Okinawa while brokering mainland Japan’s freedom as a betrayal – a move that led to generations of unrest and political friction over the large foreign military presence on the island that continues to complicate U.S.-Japan relations today.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a conservative elected last fall, stoked anger from Okinawans and the prefectural government by deciding to mark the anniversary, which island residents call a “day of humiliation”. Despite a public statement by the administration calling for the nation to remember Okinawan suffering, the island’s prefectural assembly recently cast a vote unanimously opposing the Sunday’s anniversary celebration.

“Prime Minister Abe woke a sleeping dog” and rekindled sorrow and disappointment, said Takeshi Onaga, mayor of Naha, Okinawa’s capital.

Thousands gathered at a seaside park Sunday for a rally against what many residents see as the island’s U.S. military plight at the hands of Tokyo. On Thursday, Onaga and more than 600 people gathered in Naha for a forum on the anniversary celebration of the San Francisco Treaty, which officially ended the war with Japan, granted the country its sovereignty – except for Okinawa and two other smaller island areas – and laid out a plan for war reparations.

The U.S. occupation and government administration of Okinawa continued until 1972, when it was returned to Tokyo’s control. It has since remained the base for the majority of U.S. military forces stationed in Japan, including one of the largest air bases in the world and Marine jungle-warfare training grounds …

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