Okinawa already burdened by U.S. military bases now fears Covid-19 crisis
Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
It is known that approximately 100 infections of coronavirus (Covid-19) have hit several military bases of the United States (U.S.) in Okinawa. This will increase internal discontent in Okinawa because this part of Japan is carrying a heavy U.S. military burden. Therefore, Japan needs to focus on the indigenous of Okinawa and why discontent exists.
Of course, not all Okinawans oppose U.S. military bases. Indeed, the issue for many isn’t the U.S. military bases by itself. It is the fact that Japan appears to treat Okinawa with contempt. After all, the landmass of Okinawa accounts for 0.6 percent of Japan but the majority of U.S. bases are located in Okinawa.
Hence, it is the burden of U.S. military bases that are located in this part of Japan that is creating tensions. In other words, the policies of Japan are making the situation worse for America. Thus, if U.S. military bases were shared throughout Japan more evenly, discontent would be reduced enormously.
Therefore, the outbreak of coronavirus cases in several U.S. military bases is alarming locals in Okinawa. Indeed, Taro Kono, the Defense Minister, admitted that “several problems” exist.
Kono said, “Several problems with the U.S. military’s preventive measures have been discovered.”
Danny Tamaki, the Governor of Okinawa, expressed that the recent upsurge of coronavirus cases is linked to Americans celebrating Independence Day (July 4). Thus, like the nightlife angle in Tokyo is linked to many new infections, parties have also triggered the rise of coronavirus cases in Okinawa.
Tamaki uttered, “I can’t help but have strong doubts about the U.S. military’s measures to prevent infections.”
New York Times reports, “The cases in Okinawa are a new strain on relations between the military and the local government, where the presence of American bases, dating to the end of World War II, has been an ongoing source of friction.”
The region of Okinawa was once the Ryukyu Kingdom until it became the Ryukyu domain in 1872 and finally annexed in 1879. Thus the cultural, historical, linguistic, and religious angles have suffered since the annexation. Therefore, Japan should act with greater caution and understanding of the indigenous.
Indeed, tensions in Okinawa are based on Japan not sharing the U.S. military burden throughout the country. Of course, Okinawa is strategically located in relation to China and the Asia Pacific. However, greater sharing is essential. Hence, the issue isn’t solely about America but how Okinawa is perceived in the corridors of power in Tokyo.
Thus new infections in Okinawa have a political dimension.
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