Japan’s Okinawa marks half century since U.S. handover as regional tensions develop By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Vacationers stroll on the road within the central district on Miyako Island, Okinawa prefecture, Japan April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japanese island chain of Okinawa marked the 50th anniversary on Sunday of the tip of U.S. occupation and its return to Japan with ceremonies and celebrations amid rising fear about their proximity to an more and more assertive China.

Okinawa, a string of tropical islands off far southwest Japan a lot nearer to Taiwan than Tokyo, suffered huge devastation in World Battle Two. Two months of bloody battles between U.S. and Japanese forces left as many as a 3rd of its folks useless. Almost 30 years of U.S. rule adopted.

On Could 15, 1972, the islands had been lastly returned to Japan in what was seen as a hopeful step ahead from the conflict’s painful legacy. However right now they nonetheless host the vast majority of U.S. army bases in Japan, a satan’s discount that has offered jobs but in addition fed worries about crime and army accidents.

Now, as China grows more and more assertive within the Pacific area and tensions rise round close by Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province, Okinawans are involved that they might as soon as extra find yourself on the entrance strains – particularly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“These are small islands,” stated a protester on the island of Miyako, host to Japan’s latest military base, declining to present her title.

“Increase a army base is not going to defend them however slightly make them a goal of assault.”

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will participate in ceremonies to commemorate the handover on Okinawa, whereas Emperor Naruhito will make feedback by way of videolink from Tokyo.

Okinawans have lengthy resented having to bear the outsize burden of internet hosting bases, and the difficulty has sometimes sparked huge protests. Of 812 Okinawans polled by public broadcaster NHK in March, 56% stated they strongly opposed U.S. bases; solely 1 / 4 of 1,115 folks outdoors the prefecture stated the identical.

Tensions are prone to rise on condition that lawmakers for the ruling Liberal Democratic Occasion (LDP) have stated they need a dedication to extra defence spending, together with missiles that may hit targets on overseas soil – missiles that could possibly be deployed on Okinawa. The nation is revising its nationwide safety technique this yr.

Okinawa’s present governor, Denny Tamaki, would really like the bottom footprint decreased, however plans to maneuver some bases off Okinawa, together with sending some Marines to Guam, are shifting slowly.

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