|JPRI Working Paper No. 28: January 1997
The Okinawan Charade: The United States, Japan and Okinawa: Conflict and Compromise, 1995-96
by Koji Taira
An Idea and a Policy That Just Won't Float
by Robert V. Hamilton
In the October 21, 1969, issue of the now defunct Look Magazine the combat translator in the Battle of Okinawa, old Japan hand, and JPRI member Frank B. Gibney wrote:
Most of the 100 or so U.S. installations still on Japanese soil are of marginal value, but we cling to them... The huge buildup of Okinawa into a nuclear-weaponed Gibraltar is an example of the development of U.S. Far Eastern security policy with scant regard to the people it was supposed to be making secure. ...Now, on the eve of 1970, Okinawa is in ferment. The new chief executive, voted in by a Communist-Socialist coalition, demands outright reversion. The first general strike in the island's history was staged against U.S. military installations, where some 50,000 Okinawans are employed. The discovery in July that the U.S. had stockpiled not only nuclear weapons but some form of nerve gas on Okinawa was enough to make the pot boil over.
In Japan, the Okinawa question has become a matter of national honor. Newspapers sympathetically play up items like the recent prizewinning oration of Miss Setsuko Miyagi: 'Okinawa's green mountains have been turned into ammunition dumps, nuclear submarines cruise in our beautiful coral sea... Can't people on the mainland hear our Okinawan voice calling to them?'
Had the American Government considered Okinawa as a problem in political as well as military relations even a few years ago, this ferment could have been avoided. But the compromise and the reversion timetable that would have worked in 1966 or 1967 will not work today... The ultimate American withdrawal from Okinawa and Vietnam presages a shift in the balance of power in East Asia.
The uncanny thing about these remarks is that they are completely applicable to the situation 27 years later. East Asia has become rich, the Cold War has ended, the USSR has imploded, the United States has become the world's leading debtor nation, Mao Zedong has died, and elected presidents rule in Seoul and Taipei-but nothing has changed in Okinawa. The Pentagon and its spokesmen are still saying that the Okinawans must continue to bear the burdens of the bases because of possible "threats" from China, North Korea, Japan itself, or just 'instability.' The Japanese Government is still saying that it wants American troops based on 'Japanese soil' but only so long as they are kept in Okinawa and no mainland Japanese need ever encounter them. The recently reelected Prime Minister Hashimoto and President Clinton tell us that they are deeply concerned about the Okinawans and have vast plans to respond to their needs. We at JPRI believe that this charade will end only when aroused publics in both countries start holding their political leaders accountable for the promises they make. We offer two status reports this ongoing blight on the records of the world's two largest democratic countries.
Japan Policy Research Institute
The Okinawan Charade: The United States, Japan and Okinawa: Conflict and Compromise, 1995-96
by Koji Taira
Okinawa remains stuck with something it does not deserve: an enormous American military presence. Okinawa wants to get rid of this presence, but how? The answer is: by negotiation. It is well said that "in business, you do not get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate" (C. L. Karrass).1 This is even more true in matters of politics and diplomacy. However, this does not exclude the possibility that you negotiate to get what you deserve.
The Setting for the Negotiation
In the triangular relationship of the United States, Japan, and Okinawa, Japan's starting-point is that it is obligated to supply the U.S. forces with land and facilities under the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty. A transparent secret is that as part of its own grand defense designs, Japan positively wants the U.S. armed forces on Japanese soil. But if the American military presence in Japan is viewed as part of Japan's military policy, then clearly this Japanese commitment conflicts with the Japanese constitution (Article 9), which forbids it to maintain armed forces and other war-making potential. For this reason, the Japanese leadership likes to avoid the issue of the constitutionality of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty and pretend that it has been imposed on Japan by the United States.
The United States has grand designs of its own for the stability of the East Asian region and considers Okinawa the best location for stationing its troops and building stockpiles of weapons for forward deployment in every direction as may be called for by international crises. Conveniently, the U.S. preference for Okinawa coincides with the Japanese policy to use it as a garrison to defend Japan.
Thus, there is a clear overlap of U.S. and Japanese interests in the strategic status of Okinawa amounting to a permanent collusion of the U.S. and Japan against Okinawa. How to break out of this bind is the most urgent problem Okinawa faces. Unfortunately, Okinawa is not a sovereign nation-state with a right to negotiate with other nation-states on an equal footing. Having been reduced to a prefecture of Japan and only permitted "local autonomy" within the Japanese state system, Okinawa is severely handicapped in bargaining with the U.S. and Japan.
Clearly, this is an unfair game. With such bargaining disadvantages, can Okinawa ever prevail over the U.S. and Japan and attain its cherished objective: the elimination of the U.S. military bases from its soil? The answer, of course, is 'no'-unless there are fundamental revisions in the United States's or Japan's foreign and defense policies. But much has happened in the last year or so, demonstrating room for Okinawa to maneuver in dealing with its own disadvantages vis-à-vis Japan and the U.S. As a consequence, there has been some progress toward the reduction and adjustment of the U.S. bases in Okinawa.
More concessions from Japan and the U.S. are needed. The best solution would be for the U.S. to alter its present East Asian policy. This would require a major change in public and political opinion in the United States, and criticism of the current policy is an essential part of this process.
At a minimum, within the present context, Japan can do a lot to remove the U.S. bases from Okinawa by relocating them to other parts of Japan.2 The U.S. would not object to such relocations, because it has always maintained (if disingenuously) that the question of what to do with the Okinawan bases is an internal problem of Japan. Okinawa's being a part of Japan enables the U.S. to pretend that its military bases are in Okinawa as a result of Japan's allocation of base sites. Both Japan and the U.S. employ masterful double-talk in shifting between levels of superficial tatemae (principles) and well-hidden honne (real intentions).
U.S.-Japanese collusion has produced a devastating anomaly for Okinawa. Okinawa comprises only a little more than one-half of one percent of Japanese territory. In addition, it is twice as densely populated as the rest of Japan. There is no reason to crowd into such a small, overpopulated area 75% of the U.S. military facilities and two-thirds of 47,000 U.S. troops currently based in Japan. As a consequence, 20% of Okinawa Island is occupied by U.S. forces. Under the impact of the bases, Okinawa still gives the appearance of an area under military occupation. The Cold War has not come to an end in Okinawa.
The U.S. bases are also a drag on the Okinawan economy. According to the best estimates, the incomes generated directly or indirectly by the bases are only 5% of the gross domestic product of Okinawa. This is far too small a contribution for an establishment sitting on 20% of Okinawa's land. Given the choice locations of the bases, if these areas were used as part of the civilian market economy, they should yield more than 20% of Okinawa's GDP. In effect, the U.S. and Japan are forcing on Okinawa's economy a deadweight loss of 15% of its GDP every year. In a democracy, such an abuse of the state's taxing power should never be tolerated.
Furthermore, the 15% deadweight loss is an underestimate of the true social and environmental costs borne by the residents of Okinawa because of the American bases. The 15% loss does not include the pressures on land rents in the rest of Okinawa due to the withdrawal of 20% of the area from civilian use; inconveniences to civil air transportation due to restrictions on the use of air space; closures of port facilities and waters to civilian shipping, fishing, or recreational activities because of naval and other military requirements; deadly effects of toxic wastes of the bases seeping into the soil or running off into the sea; deafening noises of bombers, fighters, and helicopters which physically damage young school children and disrupt their learning processes; accidents in the air and on the roads caused by U.S. military aircraft and vehicles; destruction of nature by live-ammunition artillery exercises, which also deny civilian access to highways in the exercise areas; crimes committed by off-duty service personnel against civilians and their properties; and so on, almost ad infinitum.
In an age of sophisticated techniques for the assessment of the environmental impact of any land use projects, the utter indifference of the U.S. military to their bases' environmental impact verges upon criminal negligence. Because of all this, life for Okinawans involves a high level of fear and anxiety that they might be robbed, raped, or killed by American soldiers, or that disasters might descend out of the blue or crop up from nowhere at any time. It also makes a mockery of the declaration, in the preamble to the Japanese Constitution, that "all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want."
The visible and invisible costs borne by Okinawans because of the U.S. military presence should be obvious to any reasonable mind. Okinawans want the bases withdrawn and the land returned to its rightful owners, so that market-guided land uses may become the foundation of further economic development in Okinawa. Okinawans have been saying that for many years, to no avail. But in September 1995, the U.S. and Japanese governments suddenly took notice of Okinawan grievances. It was triggered by the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old local girl by three U.S. servicemen.
Okinawa's Offensive and U.S.-Japanese Responses
Okinawans' smoldering resentment of the American military presence exploded in the wake of the rape. Anti-base mass movements arose and spread in Okinawaand Japan. Groups of Okinawan women toured the United States, appealing to the Americans' consciences. The minimum common denominator of these movements was the demand for the adjustment/reduction of the bases and the revision of the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which is a derivative of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty.
The widespread demand induced the prefectural legislature to ascertain the extent of popular support through a plebiscite (referendum). This plebiscite was held in September 1996, yielding overwhelming support for the adjustment/reduction of the bases and the revision of the SOFA. I shall return to this subject later.
In response to these developments, the U.S. and Japanese governments organized a Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) and began a serious examination of options for some tangible concessions to Okinawa. An interim report, announced in April 1996, produced measures that on the whole would reduce the total area of the bases in Okinawa by 20% in seven years. A major item was the return of the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station (483.2 hectares, or about 1,194 acres), but this would "require construction of a heliport on other U.S. facilities in Okinawa." This relocation "requirement" became a stumbling block in the subsequent work of the committee.
Governor Ota of Okinawa Prefecture decided to seize the opportunity to turn the tables on Japan and the United States. He refused to take a step that was required of him to enable the Japanese government to forcibly acquire private land for public use. The leases on some of the land occupied by the U.S. forces were up for renewal. Unless the new leases are duly signed by all the landowners before the current leases expire, the U.S. forces will be occupying land illegally. The legal details are rather complex, but at the risk of inviting some lawyers' ire, I will try to summarize them.
Governor Ota's Strategy
According to the Japanese Law for Land Acquisition, the promoter of a project that serves the public interest must secure agreements from the landowners for the use of their land. When agreements are not voluntarily reached, the promoter can ask for and secure the signature on the required documents from the mayor of the municipality where the land in question is located. If the mayor refuses to sign, the prefectural governor must sign in order to move the land acquisition procedure forward.
This process, which refers to ordinary public projects such as roads and dams, has been made applicable to the construction of U.S. military bases by the Special Measures Law for Land Used by the American Forces. In this case, the project is base construction, but there is ambiguity as to who the project promoter is. In the case precipitated by Governor Ota, the Japanese government claimed that the promoter was the prime minister of Japan, while Okinawa retorted that it should be the Minister of Construction. (The Japanese Self Defense Forces, constitutionally suspect, are not entitled to any special treatment. If they need land, they have to go through the usual acquisition process of buying or leasing it. The U.S. forces are in Japan by international treaties and enjoy considerable privileges-even some extra-territorial rights under the SOFA, such as the freedom of military personnel suspected of a crime against Japanese civilians from arrest and detention by Japanese police pending indictment.)
In Okinawa, there are tens of thousands of landowners whose land was forcibly taken for military use during the American occupation of Okinawa, which lasted until 1972. Had the Japanese constitution and laws been in effect in Okinawa during those days, the expropriation of land by brute force, as occurred then, would have been impossible. This gives rise to the Okinawan argument that the U.S. bases in Okinawa came into being in violation of the Constitution of Japan. When Okinawa reverted to Japanese rule, many landowners reluctantly agreed to continue the leases, but a small number of landowners began to resist the use of their land for bases. Their land therefore had to be taken by the procedure stipulated in the Land Acquisition Law, which is the Japanese version of "due process."
Every time the 5-year leases on the land used by the bases have to be renewed, the land owned by the anti-base, anti-war landowners goes through the same procedure. Each time, the "buck" stops at the governor's desk, causing him to wonder whether to stop it or pass it on to the next stages of the land-acquisition process. Once, five years ago, Governor Ota reluctantly passed the "buck" on. Since he had just been elected for his explicit campaign promise to take the land back from the U.S. military, this first decision on the land problem was a painful one.
This time, Governor Ota decided otherwise. His doing so delays the flow of paperwork for the lease renewals as required by law. Depending on the length of the delay, there arises the possibility that some leases will not be renewed before their expiration and that the American bases will be sitting on illegally seized land. The Japanese government certainly does not want to be known as a law-breaker that confiscates citizens' privately owned land. Governor Ota's action implied that this might very well be the unhappy trap awaiting the Japanese government.
The Japanese Government's Response
The Japanese government went into a tailspin. In the initial confusion, one ranking member of the defense establishment was forced out of office because of a conflict with a prime minister over the course of action. There were several possible alternatives for resolving the Japan-Okinawa conflict. The prime minister at the time, Tomiichi Murayama, chose the most offensive one, taking Governor Ota to court under certain provisions of the Local Autonomy Law. Okinawa disputed the relevance of this law to the problem at hand.
The Local Autonomy Law describes prefectures as organs of the state with respect to the execution of certain functions delegated to them by the state. According to the plaintiff (the prime minister), the signing of land documents in cases of land taken for U.S. military use was a function delegated to prefectural governors. Therefore Governor Ota's refusal to comply constituted a dereliction of duty and insubordination to the state in violation of the Local Autonomy Law. The plaintiff arbitrarily assumed and declared a natural link between the governor's role under the Land Acquisition Law and the "delegated functions" (kikan inin jimu) under the Local Autonomy Law. Governor Ota charged that the prime minister's use of these laws lacked coherence in legal interpretation.
Astonished by the unprecedented lawsuit brought against their governor by the prime minister of Japan, Okinawans closed ranks behind Ota. Governor Ota had a well thought-out game plan: he wanted to use his day in court to question the constitutionality of the American military presence in Okinawa Prefecture, hoping that the court might find merit in his argument. He and his defense team first claimed that the lawsuit against him was misplaced and should therefore be dismissed because there was no obvious link between the specific provisions of the Local Autonomy Law and the Land Acquisitions Law as claimed by the prime minister. In case that line of argument failed, they also maintained that the prime minister was not qualified to be a plaintiff in this particular case, although the Minister of Construction was. There were several other legalistic technicalities employed by the Okinawan defense team.
More important, the governor's strategy was to call attention to the unfair distribution of the U.S. military presence in Japan, disproportionately falling upon the Japanese nationals resident in Okinawa. The "public interest" allegedly promoted at the national level by the U.S. bases was clearly damaging Okinawa's "public interest" given the present distribution of base sites. Ota argued that this was discriminatory and in violation of the Constitution. If the nation's "public interest" was secured at the price of one particular prefecture's "public interest" this constituted a denial of the human and civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution to a particular prefecture. Governor Ota emphasized that as someone elected to promote Okinawa's public interest, he could not possibly tolerate the continued damage to it by the excessive U.S. military presence. Furthermore, he declared that a prefectural governor's action to protect and promote the welfare of his prefecture is well within the terms and principles of "local autonomy," and that a prefecture is on an equal footing with the state insofar as matters inherently within the scope of local autonomy are concerned.
Nonetheless, on March 25, 1996, the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court ruled in favor of the prime minister. It avoided the issues of constitutionality and local autonomy and merely asserted that Ota must yield under the Land Law. Unfazed, Governor Ota appealed to the Supreme Court in Tokyo. On August 28, 1996, however, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's ruling and threw out the governor's appeal. The Supreme Court also refused to go into questions regarding the constitutionality of the American military presence in Okinawa and the autonomy of prefectural governance.
Both the Fukuoka High Court and the Supreme Court essentially said that Japan's treaties and agreements with the United States were constitutionally valid and that the courts had no jurisdiction over the "highly political decisions" that resulted in the stationing of the U.S. military forces in Japan. With this judgment, the Japanese Supreme Court sustained its reputation for excessive conservatism and minimalism in the use of its prerogatives. In the Okinawa case, the court proclaimed itself to be "strictly legalistic" and confined its verdict to a tour-de-force patching together of diverse stipulations of several laws and U.S.-Japan treaties.
Although the governor lost the lawsuits, he won a substantial moral and political victory in Okinawa. Two weeks after the Supreme Court disaster, Governor Ota won the plebiscite. More than 50% of the eligible voters, a clear majority, voted in favor of the propositions that the U.S. bases be reduced and that the SOFA be reexamined. Okinawa's was also the first prefectural-level plebiscite ever held in Japan. The result was a clear rebuke to the Japanese government. Prime Minister Hashimoto admitted that he felt "scolded" by Okinawans. Two days after the plebiscite, on September 10, 1996, the prime minister and the governor met in Tokyo. A week after that, the prime minister visited Okinawa and delivered a "public lecture" on his thoughts on Okinawa and his plans to respond to Okinawa's needs.
A Tokyo-Okinawa Rapprochement, For the Time Being
After the Ota-Hashimoto meeting in Tokyo on September 10, 1996, Okinawa's stance on the military land issues evolved quickly. By that time, two additional lawsuits had been filed by the prime minister against the Okinawa governor in the Naha Branch of the Fukuoka High Court. The suits concerned the public posting of documents concerning land targeted for acquisition. The mayors had already refused to permit the posting, and when Governor Ota also refused, the prime minister filed a lawsuit requesting a court order to force the governor to post the land papers for public inspection. However, two days after meeting with the prime minister, Governor Ota reversed his position and announced his willingness to permit posting. This "about-face" surprised many of his supporters who wanted to see the court battles continue. When the governor reversed himself, the prime minister called off the lawsuits, temporarily ending the year-long dispute between Okinawa and Tokyo.
The curtain fell somewhat abruptly on the drama (or perhaps only on Act I) of Okinawa's resistance to the Tokyo-Washington collusion over the perpetual American military presence in Okinawa. Obviously, something crucial happened in the Ota-Hashimoto conference of September 10, 1996. They conferred, with no one else present, for 40 minutes. At the press conference called after the meeting, Prime Minister Hashimoto expressed his understanding of the "Okinawa problem" and revealed new ideas about Okinawa's development. He was not exactly apologizing, but he sounded unusually contrite for a Japanese prime minister about having abandoned the Okinawans in painful conditions for so long. He vowed to continue his efforts to reduce the U.S. bases in Okinawa and to reexamine the SOFA. In this way, he fully accepted Okinawa's demands as expressed by the plebiscite.
One new idea Hashimoto proposed was a high-level Okinawa Policy Council consisting of the director of the prime minister's secretariat, relevant ministers of state, and the governor of Okinawa. The type of policy Prime Minister Hashimoto has in mind for Okinawa is one that would build on "Okinawa's Grand Design Toward the 21st Century" (the latest version dated April 1996) worked out by Okinawa itself. For further studies, Hashimoto offered five billion yen (roughly $45 million).
The prime minister's espousal of Okinawa's "Grand Design" is of particular significance because the design is based on land-use plans that take into account the phased release of land from military use-i.e., the reduction, and eventual elimination, of the U.S. bases in Okinawa. The first phase runs to 2001, fortuitously coinciding with the return of Futenma. The second extends to 2010, and the third ends in 2015, by which time the bases would have disappeared. Specifics of the Ota-Hashimoto agreement are not written down and nobody besides the principals knows what they were. The effects of such "political" agreements usually evaporate when one or both of the principals leave office. By placing considerable weight on the Ota-Hashimoto agreement and putting an end to the year-long military land disputes, Governor Ota ironically pinned his hopes on the continuity of the Hashimoto cabinet. In effect, the agreement implied Governor Ota's endorsement of Prime Minister Hashimoto in the election of October 20, 1996.
While trying to make up his mind on the election date, the prime minister visited Okinawa on September 17, 1996, at Governor Ota's invitation and delivered an embarrassingly sentimental "public lecture." After reconfirming what he had previously revealed of the Ota-Hashimoto agreement of September 10, 1996, he also suggested that an off-shore 'floating' heliport was under consideration as a replacement facility for Futenma Air Base. This surprised many Okinawans, because territorial waters are still part of Okinawa and the whole point of removing the bases is to take troops and military facilities out of Okinawa.
With these and many other issues still unresolved, the Okinawa/Tokyo military land disputes produced only a temporary negotiated compromise. The vague gains made by Okinawa are clearly a far cry from what Okinawa deserves. And it is safe to predict that it would take only one more incident-not necessarily another rape but perhaps the crash of a helicopter (itself not uncommon) into a crowded area-to cause both Okinawa and Tokyo to turn to the U.S. for swift action.
1. This quotation is the headline in the advertisements of KARRASS Seminars. These seminars specialize in assisting business people to master the strategies, tactics, and psychological insights of negotiating. This advertisement has appeared over the past thirty years in the in-flight magazines of major airlines. Dr. Chester L. Karrass is the founder/president emeritus of KARRASS Seminars based in Santa Monica, California.
2. As pointed out by Governor Masahide Ota in his testimony before the Supreme Court of Japan, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) supplementing the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty does not limit the siting of bases to any particular areas. That is to say, bases can be built anywhere in Japan under the authority of the Mutual Security Treaty, a point that is known among Japanese jurists as the " bases-can-be-anywhere principle" This principle effectively demolishes the politicians' and policymakers' insistence that Okinawa has to be the site for a preponderance of the bases. The full text of the governor's testimony appears in the Ryukyu Shimpo, July 11, 1996.
KOJI TAIRA, who was born and raised in Okinawa, is a professor of economics and industrial relations at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and coeditor of The Ryukyuanist, a quarterly newsletter on Ryukyuan studies. This paper was first presented at the JPRI Conference on "Legacies of the Cold War: Constraints on Post-Cold War Security Policy in East Asia," held at the University of San Francisco, September 27 and 28, 1996.
An Idea and a Policy That Just Won't Float
by Robert V. Hamilton
There is a lot of propaganda flying around these days concerning the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma on Okinawa to a site off the coast from Camp Schwab. Defense policy makers on both sides of the Pacific seem to believe that a solution to the Futenma base relocation problem will remove one of the major stumbling blocks toward building a strong U.S.-Japan security alliance for the 21st century. I recently visited both MCAS Futenma and Camp Schwab and, as a former U.S. Marine Corps artillery battery commander who was stationed on Okinawa from 1986-88, I would like to offer a perspective considerably different from the rosy scenario currently being touted.
First of all, the current "Marine Corps Air Station" at Futenma has undergone a clever proposed name change to "offshore U.S. military heliport." It has been announced that the C-130 transport aircraft currently based at Futenma will be moved to MCAS Iwakuni on the Japanese mainland, and this name change to "heliport" appears to be aimed at giving an impression that what remains to be relocated from Futenma will consist of only a few landing pads, a small passenger terminal, and a snack bar. Okinawans living nearby the new facility might initially be appeased, but this marketing ploy is misleading in glossing over the infrastructure requirements needed for a Marine Corps air facility that will house the massive helicopter assets required to support a Marine combat division.
A general description of a facility like MCAS Futenma is instructive. In addition to the obvious landing areas, required, hangar space for all helicopters is needed for maintenance and protection from the harsh salt water environment. Next, a lot of space is needed to store the large variety of parts and tools required to keep these highly complex machines in operation. And don't forget about storage space for aviation fuel, and also a guarded area for ammunition, since this is a military operation. Furthermore, every military air facility needs a fully stocked and manned medical facility on the premises, since accidents do occur requiring immediate lifesaving services. Also required is a mission-capable fire and rescue operation, which requires considerable space. I could go on, but the picture should be clear. The Pentagon proposes replacing Futenma's 1,188 acres (640 acres equal 1 square mile) in the densely populated city of Ginowan with a steel platform less than a mile long. Any offshore facility adhering to U.S. Department of Defense safety, environmental and security standards and meeting military mission requirements will probably end up looking more like the giant Kansai Airport in Osaka than what is currently being described as a modest and down-sizedfacility.
As for the idea of building a floating facility in the open sea off the coast of Okinawa, there is quite a trade-off in placing the facility far enough offshore to solve the noise pollution problem. Anyone who has ever experienced a major typhoon on Okinawa will realize that such a typhoon would turn Okinawa's first floating air facility into Okinawa's first underwater air facility, with the greatest sinking of U.S. military assets into the Pacific Ocean since Pearl Harbor. To stand any chance at all of surviving the island's long typhoon season, the floating facility would have to be heavily anchored to the sea floor and surrounded by giant seawalls, and this construction would cause great damage to the beautiful coral reefs of Okinawa.
However, even if the engineering and environmental problems could be solved, a more basic policy problem remains. Currently on Okinawa, serious and committed young American men and women who have volunteered to serve in their nation's armed forces are increasingly being viewed as mercenaries to be isolated and caged away from the local populace in peacetime, and only to be set loose in times of military emergency. The proposed move of the Futenma air station to an isolated off-shore area only accentuates this. A Japanese view often heard these days is that since the Japanese are paying for the facility, they should decide on its location.
What is the best policy for the larger U.S. military base controversy in Japan? As a first step, the Japanese public must confront the responsibilities and sacrifices involved in a true military alliance with the United States, and a domestic Japanese debate must ensue on this issue. Being a good and trusted ally means much more than just writing a check. There is a widespread belief in Japan that its partial financing of the U.S. military in Japan does in fact constitute an alliance. Unfortunately, American defense policy makers are among the worst offenders in reinforcing this mistaken belief. For example, U.S. Secretary of Defense Perry and former Assistant Secretary Nye have often argued that one reason the U.S. military should remain in Japan is because the Japanese government pays for over 70 percent of the basing costs. This "Japanese-pay-70-percent" argument is echoed by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other Japanese policy makers. Such talk is not the language of allies, but rather resembles discussions between a service-providing U.S. military contractor and its Japanese customer, with the unintended consequence of reinforcing the view that U.S. military personnel in Japan are de facto mercenaries.
As for the proposed relocation of MCAS Futenma to another site, the Okinawan people have spoken, and their concerns must be addressed. Instead of behaving like indigent travelers looking for a place to stay, I wish the American base negotiators would begin discussions on a move to either Hawaii or the West Coast of the United States. The training for the Marines would certainly be much better at these American locations, and such a proposal might also prompt the beginning of a sorely needed domestic debate in Japan on the implications of a real security alliance with the United States.
ROBERT V. HAMILTON is a Japanese linguist and an official of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He is currently a Fellow of the Japanese Science and Technology Agency in Tokyo, and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland's School of Public Affairs. A version of this article first appeared in Japanese in the Ryukyu Shimpo, December 4, 1996, and in English in the Asahi Evening News, December 3, 1996.