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HOME  > Past issues  > 2012 May 9 - 15  > 40 years since return to Japan, Okinawans’ struggles still continue
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2012 May 9 - 15 TOP3 [OKINAWA]

40 years since return to Japan, Okinawans’ struggles still continue

May 13, 2012
Akahata Sunday edition

May 15 marks the 40th anniversary since Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972. The following is an interview with Akamine Seiken, Japanese Communist Party House of Representatives member, who was born in 1947 in Okinawa during the U.S. military occupation:

On May 15th 40 years ago, the day of our return to Japan, many Okinawans felt anger and frustration because the Japan-U.S. agreement only reversed Okinawa’s administrative right to Japan and maintained U.S. military bases in Okinawa.

The return of administrative rights was achieved by the Okinawan people who fiercely fought against the relentless U.S. occupation in order to have their islands governed by the rights proclaimed in the Japanese Constitution.

Having said that, having gone through the unbearable humiliation in Okinawa where military concerns took priority over everything else, we could hardly endure that the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty would justify the continued presence of U.S. bases in Okinawa even after our return to Japan.

I was born in 1947 right next to the U.S. Naha base. As a child, I had a strong impression that the “U.S. Marines are murderers.”

As I grew up, crimes committed by U.S. military personnel were nothing out of the ordinary in Okinawa. We often saw news headlines such as “Maid murdered” as local women working for U.S. military families were killed. Okinawans’ human rights were no better respected than worms under the military occupation.

I can never forget a crime that took place in 1955 when a 6-year-old girl, named Yumiko, was assaulted and killed by a U.S. soldier. Her body was left on the beach inside the U.S. Kadena Base. I was 8 years old at the time.

In 1959, a military jet crashed into the Miyamori elementary school, causing many casualties. Just a year before the accident, I was in the 5th grade and stayed overnight at the Miyamori school on a school trip. The shock I felt on the day of the crash still stays with me.

Passport needed to go to mainland

Before the return of Okinawa to Japan, the chief executive (governor) of Okinawa was not elected to office but was selected by the U.S. military high commissioner. Though we had elections for members of the legislature (prefectural assembly), the U.S. military nullified election outcomes it did not approve of.

We needed a passport to go to a university on mainland Japan. If we said we were from Okinawa, people on the mainland would often tell us, “Your Japanese is excellent.”

I became a member of the Japanese Communist Party when I was a college freshman. I was deeply moved by the JCP Program which pointed out that Japan was virtually a dependent country controlled by U.S. imperialism. This was when I realized that breaking away from the situation of dependence is the only way to reclaim a peaceful Okinawa.

At that time, the JCP was an illegal party in Okinawa. People told me, “If you associate with JCP members, they will take away your passport so that you won’t be able to come back to Okinawa,” but I already made up my mind to become a JCP member.

After graduating from university, I returned to Okinawa and became a teacher at the Yaeyama high school in Ishigaki Island in 1971.This was during the major struggle in Okinawa to be returned to Japan.

After Okinawa was returned to Japan, a reorganization of U.S. bases was conducted. The Japanese and U.S. governments demanded that relocation sites must be established before the return of military facilities. The present state of Okinawa is the result of repeated conditional returns of U.S. base sites.

No bases in Okinawa

The JCP has consistently argued that the situation in Okinawa, which has continued without fundamental change for over 60 years since the end of the war, must be changed to create peaceful islands without U.S. bases. If Okinawa can get rid of the U.S. bases, the local economy will benefit greatly with more job opportunities.

The strength shown by the unity of people that forced the return of Okinawa to Japan 40 years ago must be reignited to break away from the current security treaty structure and realize a genuine return of Okinawa to the principles enshrined in the Japanese Constitution.

In the last prefectural assembly members election 4 years ago, the JCP increased its seats from 3 to 5. Since then, it has made a significant contribution to strengthening the local solidarity movement against U.S. bases.

Opposition to a new U.S. base construction anywhere on Okinawa is now a voice of the majority in Okinawa. The JCP, the only party calling for the abrogation of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, is in position to help provide the political basis to achieve the unconditional return of land occupied by U.S. bases in Okinawa.
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