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HOME  > Past issues  > 2013 May 15 - 21  > What past gov’ts did for return of Okinawa
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2013 May 15 - 21 [OKINAWA]

What past gov’ts did for return of Okinawa

May 16, 2013
Akahata editorial

May 15 marked the 41st anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in 1972. Yet, Okinawa has continued to suffer from its burdens of U.S. military bases even after its reversion. Okinawans were recently angered when Prime Minister Abe Shinzo held a ceremony on April 28 to commemorate the coming into effect of the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty which separated Okinawa from Japan and allowed the U.S. military to remain.

Though it is the date regarded as a day of humiliation for Okinawans, the government and some news media claim that Japan had its sovereignty restored with the treaty so it could negotiate with the U.S. for the eventual return of Okinawa. This is a gross distortion of what actually happened. They should squarely face the undeniable fact that the government at that time separated Okinawa from Japan and did not pay any attention to Okinawans who called for unification.

Argument to evade responsibility for separating Okinawa

The San Francisco Peace Treaty was concluded between Japan and some of the victorious nations of WWII and came into effect in 1952. It confirmed the former Soviet Union’s lawless occupation of Chishima Islands and allowed the U.S. Forces to remain in Japan. Article 3 of the treaty stipulates that the U.S. will have “the right to exercise all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction” over Okinawa, Amami, and Ogasawara islands and the inhabitants of these islands. Thus, the treaty separated Okinawa and other islands from Japan proper.

Yoshida Shigeru, the prime minister at that time who concluded the San Francisco Peace Treaty, affirmed the U.S. right to administer Okinawa on the grounds of military necessity. After the treaty came into effect in 1952, he allowed U.S. military to seize local residents’ land with the force of “bayonets and bulldozers” in order to expand the U.S. bases in Okinawa where the United States continued to militarily occupy. After the present Liberal Democratic Party was founded in 1955, Prime Minister Hatoyama Ichiro said he had no thought of asking for the return of Okinawa. Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke who went ahead with the 1960 revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty also said, “As it stands now, it is still difficult” to ask for Okinawa’s reversion. Thus, it is absolutely fictitious to say that Japan was put in the position to freely negotiate with the United States for the reversion of Okinawa after the treaty took effect.

Amami and Ogasawara islands, which had been separated from Japan under the San Francisco Treaty along with Okinawa, were returned in 1953 and 1968 respectively. As for Okinawa, however, U.S. bases there constituted an obstacle to the island’s reversion to Japanese sovereignty. Discussions regarding the return of Okinawa began in the 1960s following the inauguration of the Sato Eisaku government. Yet, they were not talking about the full reversion of Okinawa. Researchers say that the ideas discussed at that time were: allow the U.S. military to keep the right to use its bases in Okinawa and request the return of some administrative rights to Japan; and make a different agreement from the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty to guarantee the right of U.S. forces to operate freely in Okinawa.

The Sato government reached an agreement on the return of the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands after extended negotiations with President Lyndon Johnson and President Richard Nixon. The government claimed that it regained an Okinawa without nuclear weapons and with U.S. military bases reduced to the same level as on mainland Japan. However, the government, in actuality, made a secret deal in exchange for the Okinawa reversion which enabled the United States to maintain vast areas for its bases in Okinawa to the same degree as during the occupation period. The bilateral secret promise even hints at allowing U.S. nuclear weapons to be brought into Japan and gives the U.S. administration a free hand to make sorties from its bases in Okinawa in emergencies. What the government boasted as “reversion” was nothing but a betrayal to the demands and aspirations of Okinawans.

Respond to Okinawans’ demand

Aside from this massive governmental swindle, it was Okinawans themselves who contributed to realizing Okinawa’s reversion to Japan. They tirelessly waged struggles seeking national sovereignty and a peaceful Okinawa without military bases.

It has been 41 years since the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japan. It is unjustifiable to continue to impose the heavy U.S. base burdens on Okinawans. The unquestionable need now is for the Japanese government to respond to Okinawans’ demand for a base-free Okinawa.

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