U.S. troops have occupied the island of Okinawa ever since World War II. In April 1945 the U.S. launched an 82-day battle to take Okinawa from Japan. The largest amphibious assault in the entire Pacific war, the battle killed half the civilian population of Okinawa. Japanese forces sustained 100,000 casualties there; 50,000 U.S. troops were either killed or wounded before Japan surrendered the island.
Millions died in Asia because of this horrendous war between the two competing imperialist powers. Yet today the U.S. and Japan are strategic partners. So why are tens of thousands of U.S. troops still in Okinawa?
The U.S. is trying to convince the people of the island that its troops are there to protect them from the “threat” of China. But the Okinawans are not buying it.
That’s the gist of an April 2006 cable from the U.S. consul general in Naha, Okinawa, that was recently released by WikiLeaks. The U.S. official, Thomas Reich, wrote to Washington about a conversation he had had with Mitsuko Tomon, a lawmaker from the Socialist Party who had been a candidate for mayor of Okinawa City.
Reich had tried to put Tomon on the defensive by showing her a map that purported to give the locations of Chinese “incursions” in the area around Okinawa. But, cabled Reich, she replied, “Japan and the United States had been more harmful to Okinawa than China had ever been.” She added that China’s behavior “did not justify the concentration of U.S. forces and facilities in Okinawa.” (Wall Street Journal, July 4)
That is the sentiment of most Okinawans, as expressed in countless demonstrations, marches, vigils and protests against the bases.
Today 75 percent of all U.S. bases in Japan are on Okinawa, an island that makes up less than 1 percent of Japan’s territory. In fact 20 percent of the land on the island is taken by U.S. bases. (CNN World, March 12) Moreover, the Pentagon wants to expand its existing bases.
It is important that progressives in the U.S., who may think that Washington and Wall Street are friendly toward China because of extensive U.S. investment and trade with that country, are aware that U.S. imperialists, whatever the diplomatic maneuvers of their politicians, are deeply hostile to China. They see China not only as a growing economic rival but one that comes out of a profound social revolution that liberated the Chinese people from foreign imperialist domination.
Which is one of the reasons why the people of Okinawa, who were occupied first by Japan and then by the U.S., regard China as their friend.
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