Unfortunately, you don’t read much about Okinawa in the mainstream media. It’s not even worth a footnote in the China-focused ranks of Washington’s newly muscular national security press or its military think tanks. Except for a few exceptions, not even the left or progressive media have covered it.
Yet the struggles on the island are intensifying every day. Moreover, they’re aimed squarely at one of the keystones of American foreign policy in Asia: a forward US base on the Pacific Rim that’s been used since the Korean War to project American power from Vietnam to the Middle East. Okinawa is home to 19,000 US Marines and dozens of US military installations that include the Marines’ only jungle training center.
The latest shots in the Okinawan standoff were fired in three separate elections that took place last November and December. To the shock of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Pentagon, anti-base candidates for governor, a key mayoral post, and the island’s entire delegation to Japan’s lower house of parliament (the Diet) swept to power on campaigns calling for the cessation of a new base, which would mean the complete removal of the US Marines from their land.
Much of their ire is aimed at the Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma, a massive air base larger than Central Park that sits smack in the middle of the city of Ginowan. In 1996, after the rape of a Japanese girl by US soldiers sparked fury on the island, the United States and Japan agreed to close Futenma—but then added a provision that the bulk of the Marines would be moved to a replacement base close to Camp Schwab near the northern city of Nago.