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11. Heiwa, Kyosei, Jiritsu: Ota Masahide’s Base-free Cosmopolis Ideal

The abduction, beating, and rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen in Kin Town on 4th September 1995, changed everything.[1] Okinawa had long carried a heavier burden for US military bases than any other part of Japan, but this had been an exclusively in-house matter. From 5th September, US military bases in Okinawa and the broader Japan-US security alliance became global talking points. For students and scholars trying to make sense of a post-Cold War world and the way anachronistic US foreign and defence policies needed adjustment or rethink Okinawa was a promising case study.[2] Those in the foreign affairs and defence communities in both Tokyo and Washington could no longer keep cosy Okinawa base arrangements quiet. For Ota this abhorrent incident was the last straw. He launched an assault on both governments with astute use of Okinawa’s high media profile.[3] On 28th September, Ota told the Okinawa-ken Gikai of his decision not to cooperate with the GOJ in obtaining forced military land lease renewals involving 35 landowners. Prior to this it had been a wheel-oiling formality for the governor to overrule unwilling landowners by signing as proxy agent (dairi shomei).[4] Knowing that the GOJ was under intense pressure to renew leases expiring in March 1996,[5] and thus retain a legal basis from which to provide land to the US military for use under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, on 1st October Ota rejected a meeting with Boei Shisetsucho head Hoshuyama Noboru, a trouble-shooter sent by PM Murayama Tomiichi.[6] In response to this, and with an upcoming Japan-US summit weighing heavily on Murayama, Eto Seishiro, urbane director of the Boeicho (Defence Agency), was drafted in to adopt a conciliatory approach with Ota. Eto stated that Tokyo had thus far failed to offer enough financial support for Okinawa’s industrial development to counterbalance its base dependency and that this would be addressed.[7] With the realisation that he had full command of the moral high ground, and buoyed by an emotional 85,000-person anti-base rally in Ginowan, however, Ota held firm to his position and told Murayama in person on 4th November that he would not cooperate. Two weeks later US President Bill Clinton called off his trip to Japan, prompting a reluctant Murayama to set in motion the legal proceedings against Ota that would consume much of the next year.[8]

The GOJ and USG began desperately scraping about for some way to appease Okinawa. As the Eto statement suggested, the GOJ began talking economic promotion measures, and the USG became amenable to removal or relocation of bases, provided that alternate sites in Japan or elsewhere were found.[9] Tokyo and Washington linked on base matters on 1st November, announcing the establishment of a special committee to solve Okinawa’s problems. In haste, both defence ministers, Perry and Eto, issued a statement claiming that ten facilities under consideration for some time would be returned by the year’s end, with agreement being sought on three others, one of which was thought to be Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma.[10] Other issues long under stalled bilateral discussion, like the return of Naha Military Port, the end of parachuting at Yomitan Auxiliary Airfield, and the cessation of live-fire exercises over Prefectural Highway No. 104, were also dragged out into the open to demonstrate that progress was being made. Ota was making progress of his own. Between Murayama Tomiichi’s resignation on 4th January 1996, and the announcement of PM Hashimoto Ryutaro’s inaugural cabinet on 11th, Ota unveiled a new double-barrelled development strategy. The first element was a draft ‘Base Return Action Programme (Kichi henkan akushion puroguramu),’[11] calling for the return of all US bases in three 5-year phases by 2015. The second, Kokusai toshi keisei koso: 21 seiki ni muketa shin Okinawa no gurando dezain (Cosmopolitan City Formation Concept: A Grand Design for a New Okinawa in the 21st Century)’[12] was a long-term socio-economic development vision envisaged as successor to the Daisanji Okinawa Shinko Kaihatsu Keikaku. It had been extrapolated in the main out of the Daisanji Keikaku,[13] and a draft document on the shape of a fifth Kokudocho plan.[14] For Ota, both new plans were linked. The Base Return Programme aimed “at the return of US bases by 2015, the target year for…the Cosmopolitan City Formation Concept.”[15] As such, one hinged on the completion of the other. The Base Return Plan was handed to Hashimoto on 30th January as official OPG policy, having been approved by all 53 shi-cho-son. According to press reports the plan received a “cool” reception in Tokyo, and was deemed “unrealistic” by senior Boeicho staff.[16]

Unrealistic is not inappropriate to describe the Kichi henkan or Kokusai toshi plans. As Deputy Governor Yoshimoto later commented, they were presented to PM Hashimoto and other GOJ agencies “to stimulate discussion on what kind of policies Okinawa would need in the future.”[17] As such, they were challenges to conventional thinking, no less than Plato’s Republic or Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisations?’ article in presenting radical alternatives or outcomes to elicit response by way of a kind of Socratic irony. Kokusai toshi is a remarkable mélange of elements. There are historical references to the idea of bankoku shinryo, or Okinawa as “a bridge between 10,000 countries,”[18] referring to an era of prosperity for Shuri from the 15-17th century when Ryukyu was a semi-independent state conducting peaceful relations with its Asian neighbours. It also incorporates ultra-contemporary economic and political concepts that Japan itself was having no more success in coming to terms with, like the chikyu jidai (global era) and chikyuka (globalisation);[19] natural economic zones;[20] borderless economies;[21] and chiho bunken (decentralisation of power to the regions).[22] The import of it all was that Kokusai toshi was consistent with Okinawa’s history, and the ideas contained within it not dissimilar to traditional ways of thinking. It talked of Asian exchange regions and new multilateral, multi-level relations developing. Okinawa had to respond to this “by reinvigorating its traditional spirit of bridge-laying between nations.” The main pillars of the plan were the “internationally-oriented” concepts of heiwa (peace), kyosei (coexistence), and jiritsu (self-reliance).[23] In terms of what the plan describes the three main ideals had “developmental objectives.” For heiwa, the goal was to establish Okinawa as a node linking north to south, laying the foundations for regional cooperation, developing an attractive, international resort area to be used as an exchange hub in the 21st century.[24] The idea of kyosei revolved around technical and environmental cooperation in order to develop what the plan describes abstractly as “a fulfilling and active way of life.” Again, kyosei is given as being an integral part of traditional Okinawan ways of thinking. Okinawa had a proud history of forging peaceful and friendly relations with its neighbours and desired to do so once more. Less altruistic a reason, perhaps, is that the realisation of peaceful coexistence between states in Asia would ease the persistent conditions of threat and tension that Washington pointed to as the reason why 43,000 troops were forward-deployed in (Okinawa and) Japan.[25] Finally, in terms of jiritsu, there was a need to develop new industries for the 21st century to bring about greater self-reliance.[26] Although the debt the Kokusai toshi plan owed to the Daisanji Shinko Kaihatsu Keikaku and Kokudocho draft plan was rather heavy, this was an innovative policy document and, by the dull standard of most plans, a joy to read. The big problem Ota would have in making this vision into reality was the massive amount of GOJ financial and, more importantly, legislative support required.[27]

The Kokusai toshi plan also had the misfortune to be issued at a time of chaos. At midnight on 31st March, a batch of forced land leases expired. The following day, Chibana Shoichi with phalanx of family and reporters demanded and received access to his land at the Sobe Communications Site (known as the zo no ori, or ‘Elephant Cage’) in a riveting piece of live television. On 15th April, the interim recommendations of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) were published, including the zenmen henkan, or complete return of Futenma in “the next five to seven years,” ten other partial or total base returns, and “training and operational” adjustments.[28] On 17th the delayed Clinton-Hashimoto summit took place. Not that it offered much for Okinawa. The accompanying statement, ‘Joint Declaration on Security: Alliance for the 21st Century,’ was a self-congratulatory affair. Clinton had not visited Japan in late-1995 when originally scheduled, despite what reasons were offered, because of fallout from the Okinawa rape incident. In the aftermath of the MCAS Futenma return statement, it would appear, both leaders were now feeling that their embarrassing little Okinawa problem was drawing to a close.[29] In this they were partially correct. While reformist political parties took a majority in the Okinawa-ken Gikai for the first time in 16-years in June 1996, Ota was to suffer two defeats. The first had been anticipated, but the second had not. On 10th July, Ota testified before the Supreme Court in his appeal in the dairi shomei case. It was one of the most remarkable testimonies by a political leader in the postwar period, and no less than one would expect from such a respected academic,[30] though it had no effect on the justices who found in favour of Hashimoto and the primacy of the Japan-US alliance on 28th August. In as much as surprises, Ota had made great strides in getting US bases back on the agenda, and must have assumed that the vast majority of Okinawans were behind him in seeking base reductions and revision of the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement (Nichibei chikyotei) to allow the swift handover of US military suspects involved in off-base crimes. A prefecture-wide referendum on these issues combined (Nichibei chikyotei no minaoshi oyobi kichi no seiri shukusho ni kansuru kenmin tohyo) was called on 8th September.[31]

When all was tallied, 89% of those voting supported the proposition. Nevertheless, Ota was unhappy that only 59% of eligible voters had turned out. While he made positive statements after the referendum he had privately been looking for a stronger showing to continue his dairi shomei fight. In what was the most agonising decision during his tenure, on 13th September Ota announced that he consented (odaku) to work with the GOJ to gain the signatures of unwilling landowners.[32] Arguably, this marked the end of his effectiveness as a reforming governor. The final nail in the coffin came with the ousting of Ota’s pit bull Vice Governor Yoshimoto Masanori by a conservative-led shove in the Okinawa-ken Gikai on 17th October 1997.[33] And while a strong anti-base movement was building in the Henoko district of Nago, designated as the location for the heliport, local politics were becoming more complex. The Komeito (or Clean Government Party) emerged strongly in between the conservatives and reformists as a power broker in tight situations, and reformist-dominated municipalities like Okinawa City, would feel the effect of this new twist. Through a policy of false base promises, delaying, and carrot-and-stick economic incentives, Tokyo and Washington were able to wrest the base high ground from Ota and make everything as opaque as it had been under Nishime Junji. When the SACO Final Report was published on 2nd December, the idea that Futenma would be incorporated into an existing base or relocated out of Okinawa had gone, replaced by a decision to build an expensive, state-of-the-art sea-based facility (SBF) that seemed to excite senior USG and GOJ policymakers rather than reduce Okinawa’s base burden which SACO had ostensibly been established to do.[34] In Okinawa, trying to sell the idea of an SBF to the people of Henoko before the 1997 Nago referendum, Boeicho director Kyuma Fumio beamed with joy in stating that “the pontoon method of SBF construction is very unique. If this were to go ahead many people, not just those related to the military, would want to come to Henoko and take a peek.”[35] As of January 2002, the centrepiece return of Futenma and the vast majority of other SACO recommendations in the much-vaunted Final Report are no closer to resolution than in 1996,[36] which is testament to the wiliness of the GOJ-USG Axis and perhaps, that Okinawa has less time for idealistic reformism these days. One is left with the difficult conclusion that if the post-rape, anti-base explosion from 1995-1996 could not bring about significant change in the US military base structure in Okinawa, what will?

[1] On 7th March 1996, the Naha District Court found the US servicemen guilty. Navy Seaman Marcus Gill, and Marine Pfc Rodrico Harp, were given 7-year's imprisonment, and Marine Pfc. Kendrick Ledet, judged to have not taken part in the rape, received a six-and-a-half year prison term. The girl had been on her way home from shopping when approached by the three. She was punched in the face, dragged into the back of a rented van, and driven to a secluded spot. After muzzling and blindfolding her with adhesive tape and binding her, they raped her. Judge Shinei Nagamine said on sentencing: “There is no room for extenuating circumstances. It was a dreadful and wanton crime that disregarded the victim's dignity as a human being. There was no fault on the victim's part and the mental agony and physical suffering that she experienced were tremendous.”

[2] This is probably the best way of explaining why much of what is written in the US with ‘Okinawa’ in the title, or ostensibly about Okinawa, has a far greater emphasis on US policy than it does any real concern with Okinawa.

[3] As a scholar of journalism Ota understood that such media attention would not last once the verdict in the rape trial was issued and the incident began to fade into memory. He had to maximise the current attention to Okinawa’s benefit. Foreign scholars were invited to Okinawa at the taxpayers’ expense for a Japanese-style rapid tour of the bases and then returned home to stir up hell. In previous years Ota had taken out full-page Washington Post adverts describing the impact of bases on Okinawa. 

[4] Ota stated that he had been inclining toward non-cooperation with Tokyo prior to the rape incident, as far back as 21st August when the Naha Boei Shisetsu kyoku head first asked him to sign. See ‘Chiji dairi shomei kyohi no riyu zenbun,’ in Ota Kensei Hachinen o Kirokusurukai, Okinawa heiwa to jiritsu e no tatakai: shashin to goroku de miru Ota chiji no 2,990 nichi. (Naha: Ota Kensei Hachinen o Kirokusurukai, 1999), 220.

[5] Including land owned by Chibana Shoichi at the Sobe Communications Site. 34 more leases would expire in May 1997. Daily Yomiuri, 29th September 1995.

[6] Murayama failed to take account of the storm Hoshuyama had caused in Okinawa just a year earlier.

[7] Daily Yomiuri, 12th October 1995.

[8] Daily Yomiuri, 22nd November 1995.

[9] The GOJ typically used financial incentives whenever a problem arose, and the USG had long held the position that, as Roland Paul states, it would “relocate virtually any of its facilities in Japan if the Japanese Government would provide, at its expense, equivalent facilities elsewhere.” Roland A. Paul, American Military Commitments Abroad (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press), 43. As such, there was no real switch in positions, only a clarification.

[10] Daily Yomiuri, 2nd November 1995.

[11] Okinawa-ken, Kichi henkan akushion puroguramu [soan]. (Naha: Okinawa-ken, 1996), and the faithful English translation: Base Return Action Programme [Proposal], (Naha: Okinawa-ken, 1996).

[12] Unveiled in April 1996. Okinawa-ken, Kokusai toshi keisei koso [soan]: 21 seiki ni muketa shin Okinawa no gurandodezain (Naha: Okinawa-ken, 1996). A loose English translation was issued at about the same time: Okinawa's Grand Design Toward the 21st Century: An Outline of the Cosmopolitan City Concept. (Naha: Okinawa-ken, 1996).

[13] Specifically, becoming the southernmost point of convergence for international exchange, and using its uniqueness to contribute to the socio-economic and cultural development of Japan. Kichi henkan akushion puroguramu [soan], 1, and Okinawa-ken, Kikaku Choseishitsu, Okinawa no shinko kaihatsu keikaku kankei shiryo (Naha: Okinawa-ken, 1995), 11-12.

[14] Kokudocho, Keikaku Chosei Kyoku, 21 seiki no kokodo no gurando dezain: atarashii zenkoku sogo kaihatsu keikaku no kihonteki kangaekata. (Tokyo: Kokudocho Keikaku Chosei kyoku 1995).

[15] Base Return Action Programme [Proposal], (Naha: Okinawa-ken, 1996), 1.

[16] Daily Yomiuri, 31st January 1996.

[17] ‘Shin seiki e no Okinawa no bijiyon: hondo fukki 25 shunen ni atate,’ loc. cit., 58.

[18] Kokusai toshi keisei koso [soan]: 21 seiki ni muketa shin Okinawa no gurandodezain, 1. This idea is better expanded on in the second draft of the Kokusai toshi plan in November 1996. Part of it read: “Now is the time to revive the concept of Bankoku Shinryo no Seishin; Okinawa’s traditional spirit of coexistence which built friendly relations with our neighbouring countries, and to become a bridge into Asia in this new era (Ima koso...Ajia no kakehashi toshite, ringoku to no yuko kankei o kizuita kyosei no seishin de aru Bankoku shinryo no seishin o gendai ni ikashi...),” Okinawa-ken, Kokusai toshi keisei koso: 21 seiki ni muketa Okinawa no gurando dezain (Naha: Okinawa-ken, 1996), 1.

[19] Drawn from Kokudocho, 21 seiki no kokodo no gurando dezain: atarashii zenkoku sogo kaihatsu keikaku no kihonteki kangaekata, 8 and 20-21, and from Daisanji Okinawa Shinko Kaihatsu Keikaku critiques of Okinawa’s failure to address contemporary global changes. Kokusai toshi embraces the idea of globalisation from the point of view that as the world becomes smaller, there is a greater degree of interconnectedness between peoples and states, and a greater degree of functional integration between internationally dispersed economic activities.

[20] Promoting the idea of Okinawa as a node of the Asia-Pacific by exploiting its geographical location at a crossroads between three main economic blocs: the South China Economic Zone, the ASEAN Economic Zone, and Northeast Asia Economic Zone, as well as to smaller interregional exchange areas, with the expansion of deregulated commerce and formation of regional trading zones Hypothetically combined, this adds up to a potential marketplace on Okinawa’s doorstep of 2-billion people with a nominal gross domestic product of more than $7-trillion. On this idea see Kakazu Hiroshi, ‘Five Economic Trends in the Asia-Pacific Region: Emerging Issues and Japan's Role,’ Research Institute for Asian Development Bulletin (March, 1992), 121, and Kakazu Hiroshi, ‘Ichi no higeki kara ichi no yui e: fukki 20 nen, soshite kore kara,” Sekai (June 1992).

[21] On this theme see Omae Kenichi, ‘The Rise of the Region State,’ Foreign Affairs 2 (1993), and his development of the idea specifically for Okinawa in: Okinawa Konwakai, Omae Kenichi no yuimarubijion, (Naha: Boda Inku, 1993).

[22] For preliminary reading see ‘Tokushu: bunken jichi kakumei,’ Sekai 625 (1996), 23-91, and Ito Zennichi, ‘Okinawa to Tonan Ajia,’ in Joseph Kreiner, Kiyonari Tadao and Yada Toshifumi, edited, Higashi Ajia keizaiken ni okeru Kyushu-Okinawa (Naha: Hirugi Sha, 1995), 99-111.

[23] Kokusai toshi keisei koso [soan]: 21 seiki ni muketa shin Okinawa no gurandodezain, 1, and 5-7. In terms of what the plan describes the three main ideals apparently had ‘developmental objectives.’

[24] Clearly, Okinawa’s desire for peace in the 21st century is rooted in its experiences of war in the 20th century. Okinawa was destroyed by war in 1945, was vicariously and unwillingly involved in three US-led wars: in Korea in the 1950’s, in Vietnam from the 60’s into 70’s, and in the Persian Gulf in the 1990’s. The US military presence has also created internal political, economic, and social problems over the years. Another legitimate reading of the term heiwa is ‘harmony,’ yet there has been little of this as local governments, communities, and individuals find themselves divided by their economic dependence on, or ideological opposition to, bases. Most Okinawans, regardless of political allegiance, believe that an island tailored to fit Cold War requirements over a half-century ago should now be able to reap the benefits of post-Cold War peace. Obviously, the plan does not explain this.

[25] Since 11th September 2001, there has been less emphasis on regional instability and more on the potential role of Okinawa in America’s ongoing “War on Terror.” Miyasato Seigen warns that US anti-terrorism policies will have an effect on the function of Okinawa (Okinawa Taimusu, 1st January 2002), as does current US Ambassador to Japan James Baker, who sees no reduction in US forces from the region in the foreseeable future. Japan Times, 1st January 2002. Were there to be a sudden outbreak of peace, of course, one would expect a massive drawback of US troops and bases.

[26] The concept of jiritsu is by far the most complex of the three discussed. This is the result of it being a term that can be rendered in several different ways. For the moment, however, it will suffice to outline the current interpretation of its meaning in as much as the Kokusai toshi plan is concerned. The concept relates to a condition which has persisted throughout much of Okinawa’s modern history: that of being a small island region without either the tools or latitude to construct for itself a self-reliant economy. That is, to achieve sustainable economic development (jizoku kanona kaihatsu) through its own efforts rather than relying on state handouts or intervention. The economy over the past 50 years has been structurally dependent on both US military base revenues and, after the end of the US occupation, transfer payments from the GOJ. Other Japanese prefectures depend on government financing for public works projects and to make up balance of payments deficits, of course, but Okinawa’s dependency ratio is particularly high if one looks at those areas in which Tokyo is involved.

[27] There were three subsequent official drafts of the Cosmopolitan City plan prior to OPG acceptance of the Hashimoto-initiated Okinawa keizai shinko 21 seiki puran as the way forward: the first official version in November 1996, Kokusai toshi keisei koso: 21 seiki ni muketa Okinawa no gurando dezain; in May 1997, Kokusai toshi keisei kihon keikaku: 21 seiki Okinawa no gurando dezain no jitsugen ni mukete, and; in November 1997, Kokusai toshi keisei ni muketa aratana sangyo shinkosaku, and several related studies on aspects of the plan, including the idea of a zenken (whole-prefecture) free trade zone. For excellent analysis of the Kokusai toshi plan see Makino Hirotaka, Saiko Okinawa keizai. (Naha: Okinawa Times Sha, 1996), and Kurima Yasuo, Okinawa keizai no genso to genjitsu (Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Hyoron Sha, 1998). Makino’s Chapter Four was developed out of a series of critical articles he wrote for the Okinawa Taimusu in June and July of 1996.

[28] SACO, Interim Report by the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Ikeda, Japanese Minister of State for Defence Usui, US Secretary of Defence Perry, and US Ambassador to Japan Mondale, 15th April 1996.

[29] Certainly an impression one takes from Funabashi Yoichi’s excellent documenting of the Futenma diplomatic process in Alliance Adrift (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1999). Hashimoto threw Ota some scraps, arranging an impromptu 5-minute meeting with Clinton to whom Ota said “I’d appreciate it very much if you could find time to visit Okinawa in the near future to study actual base conditions.” Okinawa heiwa to jiritsu e no tatakai: shashin to goroku de miru Ota chiji no 2,990 nichi, 116. On the Japan-US statement see US-Japan Joint Declaration on Security: Alliance for the 21st Century, Joint Declaration released in Tokyo during the State Visit by President Clinton to Japan, 17th April 1996. Clinton eventually came to Okinawa, in mid-2000, for the G8 World Leader’s Summit.

[30] The complete text of Ota’s testimony can be found in Japanese in Okinawa heiwa to jiritsu e no tatakai: shashin to goroku de miru Ota chiji no 2,990 nichi, 223-230, and in English in Ota Masahide, Essays on Okinawa Problems (Gushikawa: Yui Shuppan, 2000), 234-254.

[31] A sample ballot paper and instructions can be located in Koho Kin, 1st August 1996, 9.

[32] Okinawa heiwa to jiritsu e no tatakai: shashin to goroku de miru Ota chiji no 2,990 nichi, 128.

[33] Okinawa Taimusu, 18th October 1997.

[34] Hashimoto had been particularly fond of the idea. See Funabashi Yoichi, Alliance Adrift. On the final recommendations see SACO, The SACO Final Report by Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Ikeda, Japanese Minister of State for Defence Kyuma, US Secretary of Defence Perry, and US Ambassador to Japan Mondale, 2nd December 1996.

[35] Okinawa Taimusu, 14th December 1997. On the SBF itself see US DoD, SBF Sea Based Facility: Functional Analysis and Concept of Operations - MCAS Futenma Relocation, FACD Vol. 1, Executive Report. (Washington, DC: US DoD, 1997).

[36] Ex-Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asia and the Pacific Kurt Campbell argued recently that Japan and the US have to “recommit with passion and commitment to completing the SACO process.” The Ryukyu Forum 1 (January 2001), 15.



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