Okinawa protesters score win over Pentagon

Following a wave of protests on Okinawa against the planned deployment of a fleet of MV-22 Osprey aircraft by the US Marine Corps at the island's Futenma Air Station, the US Defense Department and Japan's government announced Aug. 5 that they will delay the deployment pending further tests of the aircraft's safety. The protests had the strong support of Takeshi Onaga, mayor of Naha, Okinawa's capital, and also won the sympathy of Yoshihiko Fukuda, mayor of Iwakuni, the city in southern Honshu's Yamaguchi prefecture where the 12 aircraft were to be assembled. In June, a US Air Force Osprey crashed in Florida, injuring all five airmen aboard, while a crash in Morocco in April left two Marines dead. The Ospreys, a hybrid craft that incorporates elements of both planes and helicopters, were to replace older CH-46 helicopters that are currently deployed at Futenma. (Japan Times, Aug. 5; RTT, July 27; AP, July 23; AP, July 20)

Token rallies in favor of the Osprey deployment were held by the Happiness Realization Party, which is clearly right-wing nationalist despite the bizarre description of its politics as "pacifist" on its Wikipedia page. Party leader Tsuiki Shugaku cited the "looming threat of Chinese invasion," and Beijing's claim to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, currently controlled by Japan and part of Okinawa prefecture. (Liberty Web Global, Aug. 9)

The Okinawa mobilization comes on the heels of Japan's largest protests since the 1960s, in opposition to the resumption of nuclear power generation after all the country's reactors had been shut in a safety review prompted by the Fukushima disaster. The massive June 29 anti-nuclear demonstration, which saw some 100,000 gathering outside the official residence of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, was preceded by a similar gathering at the residence of over 40,000 on June 22—a day with important resonances in Japan's 20th century history. June 22, 1908 was the day of the "Red Flag Incident," in which Japanese anarchists and socialists took to the streets, prompting a harsh wave of repression. June 22, 1987 saw an 18,000-strong protest at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, representing the start of the movement against the US military presence on the island. Some supporters are calling the new movement against nuclear power and militarism in Japan the "Hydrangea Revolution." (Todos Somos Japon, June 23;

June 2011 also saw protests on Okinawa against plans to consolidate US forces at the Kadena and Futenma bases, calling instead for Pentagon operations to be relocated off the island entirely. (Ryukyu Shimpo, June 12, 2011)

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