Okinawa protests, the U.S.-Japan alliance, and the strategic big picture

Al Jazeera's Inside Story
June 28, 2016

The horrific murder of an Okinawan woman by an American has stirred large-scale protests in opposition to the United States’ large military presence on the island, but the strategic value of the island “cannot be underestimated” when considering calls to remove American bases, Sasakawa USA’s distinguished non-resident fellow Tomohiko Taniguchi said while appearing on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story program on June 19.

“Their anger and anguish are very much understandable,” Taniguchi said while explaining the bigger picture at play in the region’s security. “…When it comes to the value Okinawa caries in Japan’s overall defense, and by extension the region’s defense, the value of the island has become even more salient. If you look at what’s going on in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, you must see that the strategic value of Okinawa cannot be underestimated.”

The program covered topics including the investigation of crimes by American personnel in Okinawa, the U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), the status of base relocation plans, and how the local Okinawa government’s position on the bases compares to that of the national government.

Taniguchi, who also is a special advisor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet and a professor at Keio University, posed a question while speaking: Is the U.S. military presence in Japan an asset or a hindrance to the nation?

“I think the seven decades we have passed [since the end of World War II] have proven that it has worked tremendously in favor of Japan as an asset,” he said. “The U.S.-Japan alliance has gained international and global perspective, so it is not only to safeguard the peace and security of Japan, but without it, it would be extremely difficult for the entire region to maintain its status quo and its rules-based border. That’s how the U.S.-Japan alliance must be viewed, and that’s the big picture you must use to put these terrible crimes into perspective.”

“…The U.S. Marine Corps is the biggest, strongest, amphibious force expeditionary deployed. To have it on the soil of Japan cannot be but Japan’s asset.”



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