Okinawa Mayor’s Election Deals a Blow to Marine Base Relocation Plan

Efforts to relocate a Marine air base that has been a longstanding irritant in ties between Japan and the United States suffered a new setback on Sunday when voters in a small Okinawan city re-elected a leftist mayor who promised to block construction of a replacement site.

The victory for the mayor of Nago, Susumu Inamine, dealt an embarrassing blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has invested his political capital in efforts to restart the long-stalled relocation deal, and who seemed to achieve a breakthrough last month by gaining the support of Okinawa’s governor.

Mr. Abe, a conservative, has vowed to build closer ties with the United States at a time when both nations face growing challenges from a militarily resurgent China and a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Read the rest of the story: In a City on Okinawa, Mayor’s Re-election Deals a Blow to Marine Base Relocation Plan.

Okinawans Protest Celebration of ‘day of humiliation’

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says that the government is planning to commemorate the day when Japan regained its sovereignty from the United States 61 years ago on April 28 by holding a special ceremony. But Okinawans are angry about this since they consider this their “day of humiliation”, when they were abandoned by Japan.

Moriteru Arasaki, a professor emeritus of Okinawa University was a first year high school student on that day when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect. While Japan got its sovereignty back, Okinawa was placed under the control of the United States. Arasaki believes it is an insult to Okinawans for Abe’s government to consider celebrating that day. And he is not alone in that thinking. Choho Zukeran, the former chairman of the Political Local Party of Okinawa believes that his prefecture was used as a pawn to the U.S, in exchange for giving back freedom to the rest of the country. Zukeran participated in protests held every year on April 28 until they finally succeeded in 1972 when the Okinawa prefecture was returned to the Japanese government.

But to this day, residents of the southernmost prefecture of Japan feel deep anger at being “forced” to host the U.S bases and half of its more than 47,000 military personnel. Protests, sometimes led by their political leaders and government officials, have continued against the US military presence, safety issues over the deployment of MV-22 Osprey aircraft at the Kadena Air Force Base by 2015 and the recent spate of criminal misbehaviour by military personnel. Some have warned Abe’s administration that the continued unrest in the region might someday lead to a move for secession from the central government. If the celebration on April 28 pushes through, this will just be another reason for Okinawans to resent the government.

Japan Arrests Captain of Chinese Fishing Boat

Japan’s coastguard says it has arrested the captain of a Chinese fishing boat on suspicion of fishing in the country’s exclusive economic zone.

It says the coral fishing boat with a crew of 13 was stopped by a coastguard patrol in waters some 46 kilometres northeast of Miyako island in the Okinawan chain.

The boat’s captain was arrested for allegedly fishing in the exclusive maritime zone without permission from Japan.

Read the rest of the story: Japan detains China fishing boat amid island row .

PAC-3s Okinawa-bound before North Korean launch

he Maritime Self-Defense Force transport ship Kunisaki left Monday morning from the MSDF base in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, carrying missile interceptors to be deployed in Okinawa for North Korea’s stated plan to launch a satellite.

The ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors are to be deployed at several locations in Okinawa. The Kunisaki and another MSDF transport, the Osumi, are to arrive at Okinawa in a few days.

North Korea announced Saturday that it plans to launch an “Earth observation satellite” between Dec. 10 and 22, following an unsuccessful attempt to launch a long-range rocket in April.

The first stage has been placed in position at the North’s Sohae launch station, a South Korean government source told Yonhap news agency.

Read the rest of the story: PAC-3s Okinawa-bound for North Korean launch.

Imperial Couple in Okinawa

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko began a four-day visit to Okinawa on Saturday for a series of engagements, their first trip to the prefecture in eight years, the Imperial Household Agency said.After arriving in Naha, the Imperial Couple headed to Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, where they met with surviving members of the Shiraume student nurse corps mobilized for the 1945 Battle of Okinawa and laid flowers for the war dead. They will attend a national convention on marine resources in Itoman on Sunday, and will also release shellfish and coral larvae into the ocean.On Monday, the Emperor and Empress will visit the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, which opened in Onna in September, and on the following day they will travel to Kume Island to view the Okinawa Prefectural Deep Sea Water Research Center. They will return to Tokyo on Tuesday evening.

Read the rest of the story: Imperial Couple arrive in Okinawa.

Chinese Commentators Dispute Japan’s Claim to Okinawa

For many observers, rising friction between China and Japan over a group of remote and uninhabited islands in the East China Sea is worrying enough.

But if some influential Chinese nationalist commentators have their way, the spat over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands — which Beijing calls the Diaoyu — could widen into a dispute over a much more important archipelago.

In a fiery editorial this month, the Global Times newspaper urged Beijing to consider challenging Japan’s control over its southern prefecture of Okinawa, an island chain with a population of 1.4 million people that bristles with U.S. military bases.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s claim to Okinawa disputed by influential Chinese commentators.

US to deploy Osprey in Okinawa Despite Local Opposition

The US Defense Department says it will deploy its Osprey aircraft in Okinawa despite local opposition after recent crashes. Spokesperson George Little said on Monday the Pentagon stands behind its decision.

The United States military is planning test flights late July at its Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi Prefecture, before deploying the craft to Okinawas Futenma Marine air base.

Read the rest of the story: US to deploy Osprey in Okinawa as planned.

Okinawa Marks WWII Battle Anniversary

Okinawa Prefecture on Saturday marked the 67th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa during World War II. This came after the recent celebration of the 40th anniversary of the prefecture’s reversion to Japanese sovereignty.

At a memorial ceremony in Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, southern Okinawa Prefecture, where the last fierce battle was waged, Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima spoke about the burden of hosting U.S. military facilities. He urged the central government and the United States to curtail the burden and consider relocating the U.S. Marine Corp’s Futenma Air Station in Ginowan to somewhere outside the prefecture.

“Okinawa still hosts a large concentration of U.S. military facilities, forcing its people to shoulder a heavy burden,” he said.

The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and about 5,500 people, including the bereaved families of those whose lives were claimed during the battle.

Read the rest of the story: Okinawa marks WWII battle anniversary as anxiety over continued US military presence continues.

Residents ponder significance of Okinawa’s reversion on 40th anniversary

Many Okinawa and mainland Japan residents pondered the significance of the return of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty on May 15, the 40th anniversary of the reversion.

Many tourists visited Cape Hedo in Kunigami, which is located at the northern tip of Okinawa’s main island and where a monument for the struggle to secure reversion stands. From the cape they turned their gaze across the ocean toward Kagoshima Prefecture’s Yoron Island, which had been separated from Okinawa by a national border until the reversion in 1972.

Tokyo, Okinawa usher in antigang legislation

Local ordinances prohibiting companies from trading with organized crime syndicates will be put into force Saturday in Tokyo and Okinawa with the expectation of stopping their cash flow funds and eventually putting the mob out of business.

Some legal experts welcome the moves by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Okinawa Prefectural Government, but they also urge local police to properly disclose to the general public detailed information about gangs so they can avoid trading with them and provide concrete examples of cases being banned by the new ordinances.

Tokyo and Okinawa are the last prefectures to enforce such measures against underworld syndicates.

Read the rest of the story: Tokyo, Okinawa usher in antigang legislation.