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(社説)復帰の日 沖縄を孤立させぬ覚悟

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 16
EDITORIAL: 43 years on, Okinawa still forced to serve mainland's interest
(社説)復帰の日 沖縄を孤立させぬ覚悟

May 15 marked the anniversary of Okinawa’s return to Japan 43 years ago. Never has the anniversary arrived amid such acute tension between Okinawa Prefecture and the central government.

Flying in the face of strong opposition from many people in Okinawa, the Abe administration is forging ahead with preparations for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from the crowded city of Ginowan to the Henoko area of Nago, another city in the island prefecture.

The government and Japan’s mainlanders should heed the voices of Okinawa, which has been pivotal to the support of national security since the end of World War II in 1945 by bearing the heavy burden of hosting the vast bulk of U.S. military bases in this country. The Japanese people should not allow Okinawa to become isolated.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, met separately with Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga in April and May for the first time since Onaga came to office in December. The three top government officials refused to hold talks with Onaga until then.

Onaga’s remarks about Okinawa’s postwar history made in those meetings underscored Okinawa’s determination to reject the Futenma relocation plan.

Onaga talked about how the U.S. military, when it governed Okinawa before its reversion to Japan, seized local people’s land forcibly to build bases by using “bayonets and bulldozers.”

The Okinawa governor also spoke about Paul Caraway, the high commissioner of the U.S. Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands during the early 1960s, who once declared that Okinawan self-government is nothing but a legend.

Onaga also referred to the 1956 U.S. attempt for an effective blanket purchase of the local land leased for bases, made in line with what is known as the “Price Recommendations” by Rep. Melvin Price, who chaired a special subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee.

Onaga’s words awakened bitter memories about these historical facts that still linger in the minds of the people in Okinawa and highlighted parallels between these incidents and the Abe administration’s approach to the Futenma issue.

Onaga’s remarks expressed anger about how the central government has continued to ignore Okinawa’s determined opposition to the base relocation plan, which was made clear in three elections last year--the Nago mayoral election, the gubernatorial poll and the Lower House election. They also indicated that Okinawa’s actions against the administration’s efforts to carry out the plan are similar in nature to Okinawa’s fight for the right of self-government under U.S. military rule.

In his meeting with Nakatani, Onaga recounted an episode about his discussions on the issue with an Upper House member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party two years ago when he was the mayor of Naha. Onaga severely criticized the mainland’s mind-set by telling Nakatani that the LDP politician said Okinawa should accept the new base because the mainland refused to accept it. The LDP lawmaker also said to Onaga, “Let us stop futile discussions.”

It is notable that the series of meetings between Onaga and the top administration officials have aroused sympathy for Okinawa among the Japanese public.

In a clutch of opinion polls recently conducted by The Asahi Shimbun and other media, more respondents than before expressed critical views about the administration’s stance toward the issue.

The mainland public’s interest in the problem appears to be growing, as indicated by internationally acclaimed animation director Hayao Miyazaki’s decision to co-head a fund set up by prefectural assembly members and local businesses to protest the plan to move the air base to Henoko.

Onaga plans to make his case to a broad international audience, including the U.S. government.

Okinawa’s wish to be treated equally as the mainland has been consistently denied, even after its return to Japan.

Chobyo Yara, the last chief executive of the government of the Ryukyu Islands under U.S. administration and the first governor of the prefecture after the return of Okinawa, once said. “Okinawa must not be victimized again as a means of the state.”

One serious question Japanese mainlanders should ask themselves now is whether they are again trying to victimize Okinawa for the mainland’s interests.


中国の軍事開発 地域の安定脅かす「砂の長城」

The Yomiuri Shimbun
China jeopardizes regional stability by building ‘Great Wall of sand’
中国の軍事開発 地域の安定脅かす「砂の長城」

China is accelerating its land reclamation in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, a move that is jeopardizing the stability of the region.

The U.S. Defense Department’s recently released annual report on China’s military strength mentioned for the first time that country’s reclamation of land in the South China Sea, which has been described as the building of “a Great Wall of sand.” The report expressed concern that the reclaimed land around rocks and reefs in the waters would create “persistent civil-military bases of operation.”

As of late last year, China had already begun constructing harbors, communication facilities and an airfield at four of the five reclaimed outposts in the Spratly Islands.

A Pentagon official said the total acreage of the reclaimed area had grown to about eight square kilometers, quadrupling in size over about four months.

China is reclaiming land at an extraordinarily fast pace. It is clearly trying to create a fait accompli by unilaterally expanding its control over territories disputed with such neighboring countries as the Philippines.

It is quite reasonable that the report criticizes China’s “willingness to tolerate a higher level of regional tension” to advance its interests.

China defends its move to reclaim land in the disputed waters as intended to safeguard its territorial sovereignty, but this claim is excessively self-serving. It is commonly recognized among countries concerned that China’s territorial claims — which assert that its sovereignty covers almost all the area in the South China Sea — have no basis under international law.

The prevailing view is that China’s reclamation in the area is part of its preparations for establishing an air-defense identification zone over the South China Sea and securing air supremacy.

Cyberwar capabilities

The report also said it is likely that China’s nuclear submarine, carrying ballistic missiles, will begin its first patrols for nuclear deterrent purposes this year.

It is noteworthy that the report expressed strong alarm over the rapid modernization of China’s military forces, saying “it could potentially reduce the U.S. forces’ core technological advantage.”

In the field of space, in particular, the report said China possesses “the most rapidly maturing space program in the world” and that the country continues to develop capabilities designed to limit or prevent the use of space-based assets by its adversaries.

Regarding cyberspace, the report expresses a sense of danger over China’s strengthening of its capabilities to destroy computer networks, as part of its “anti-access and area denial (A2/AD)” strategy to prevent the intervention of U.S. forces in the event of a contingency.

Close attention must be paid to any progress in China’s military technologies in these newly emerging domains.

Worrisome for Japan is the buildup of equipment for the People’s Liberation Army Navy and Air Force.

The report said it was likely that in the next 15 years, China will build multiple domestically produced aircraft carriers and procure Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35s, one of the most advanced fighters in the world. It also said China will likely make progress in the development of stealth strike aircraft in that period.

Japan and the United States must boost the joint response capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. forces, based on recently agreed-upon guidelines on bilateral defense cooperation, and enhance their deterrent against China.

It is also important to cooperate with countries concerned to heighten vigilance and surveillance activities in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and urge China to refrain from taking any provocative military action.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 14, 2015)


(社説)安倍政権の激走 「いま」と「わたし」の大冒険

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 29
EDITORIAL: Atmosphere of society lets Abe honk his adventurism horn
(社説)安倍政権の激走 「いま」と「わたし」の大冒険

The essential features of an automobile are to run, to turn and to stop. A balance between the three factors is just as essential in politics.

“What is sought in this Diet session is not mere back-and-forth criticism,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said emphatically during this year’s policy speech while pointing to the opposition gallery. “What is needed is action.”

Certainly, the Abe administration has been driving along so startlingly wild that eyes are readily drawn to the power of its engine and the orientation of its steering wheel. But the eyes should probably be more focused on the brakes than on anything else.


The Constitution for reining in those in power; lessons of history; self-reflection and self-restraint by those in power; critical reviews of those in power by media and opposition parties. These gadgets have functioned as brakes on Japan’s politics during the seven decades since Japan’s defeat in World War II.

But the Abe administration and supporting members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party apparently believe that these brakes are the culprit for the slow run of this country.

“You face criticism when you set out on action,” Abe told students of the National Defense Academy during their graduation ceremony. “Irresponsible arguments that are only aimed at stirring up anxiety, such as ‘Japan could be embroiled in war,’ kept recurring in the past. But history of the past 70 years demonstrates how ludicrous those criticisms were.”

The prime minister also referred to the Self-Defense Forces as “our military” during a recent Diet debate.

Abe has used such phrases as “departure from the postwar regime” and “take back Japan.”
Do those words mean adventurism that implies that the brakes are just embarrassments and that the engine should be opened at full throttle?

“Now” is all that counts to those in the Abe administration. One might ask where they are heading, what makes them hurry so, and whether it is safe to do so.
But they would only respond: “Look at the way we are driving now. There was no administration before that dared to step so boldly on the gas pedal.” They will dismiss all criticism and say: “We are currently dead set on just heading forward for somewhere that is not here. Why do you want to meddle?”

That sort of curious logic is all the rage.


“Hakko ichiu,” a phrase that originally means “to bring the world under one roof,” was used during the Pacific War as a political slogan to justify Japan’s invasion of other nations.

But Junko Mihara, director of the LDP’s Women’s Affairs Division, took that phrase out of the historical context during a recent Diet session. She referred to it as an “ideology that Japan has cherished since its foundation.”

Things are interpreted so that they are convenient to “me” (Japan), and no consideration is paid to the presence of others. Such a narrow-sighted and rough world view keeps popping up.

During a live appearance on a commercial TV station’s news program last year, Abe said that he believed the broadcaster was airing street interviews “selectively,” a practice that he found “odd.”

When he was recently told in the Diet that saying such a thing could amount to applying pressure on news reporting, the prime minister dismissively said he had “freedom of speech,” creating a wag-the-dog situation.

“Freedom of speech,” which is a right of individuals not to be oppressed by those in power, is being brandished by the man in power.

The prime minister also said, “(Those who disagree with me) perhaps feared they could be refuted if they opened an argument with me.” He added: “Will they cringe at only that? Shame on them.”

Perhaps Abe lacks the fundamental awareness that he has the highest political power.

One probably couldn’t be blamed for flinching momentarily if a large car comes nearby and honks. That is exactly why power should be exercised in a restrained manner so as not to cause the public to flinch.

No prime minister should be influenced by the impulsive inner calls of “now” and “me.”

The shame should be directed at Abe, who has yet to learn the manners of a man in power, such as restraint and self-control, and keeps honking his horn as he drives around.


Yet, the Abe administration can continue on its wild run because the atmosphere of society is somehow backing that behavior.

A protracted economic slump; the rise of China; widening social disparity; the Great East Japan Earthquake; and the hostage-taking of two Japanese citizens by the Islamic State extremist group ... . Many factors have steadily built up frustration, a sense of crisis and anxiety about not knowing what is at the root of the anxiety.

“You could be defeated unless you worked as one under the nation to face challenges. So you should refrain from pouring cold water on the government and help the state achieve its best performance.”

Such sentiment is spreading.

And this is perhaps indirectly causing the advent of a society where top-down decisions are preferred to thorough discussions, and the convenience of the state and groups of people are put ahead of the rights and freedoms of individuals.

When might is master, justice is servant.

Elements that do not fit in collective unity are expelled under the labels of “anti-Japan” and “traitors.” An extremely infantile argument is being made that media criticism against Abe amounts to “hate speech” against him.

It has recently been said that the media are cringing.

However, it is not merely a situation of the media flinching at the high-handed manners of the Abe administration. The actual situation is that the media are being mired in a “liquefied society” where reasoning has receded.

This is our actual, albeit shameful, feeling about the matter.

We should not shut our ears and turn a blind eye to a society where cars without brakes are honking loudly. Something could and should be done now by every single member of society, to say nothing of the media.


(社説)辺野古移設 沖縄の問いに答えよ

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 24
EDITORIAL: High time for government to answer Okinawa’s questions
(社説)辺野古移設 沖縄の問いに答えよ

How long will the central government continue to blatantly and completely ignore Okinawa Prefecture’s requests and questions concerning the plan to relocate a key U.S. air base?

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga on March 23 ordered the Okinawa Defense Bureau to suspend within a week all work to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the crowded city of Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago. The ongoing work includes a seabed drilling survey to prepare for land reclamation off Henoko.

If the bureau refuses to obey his order, Onaga warns he will revoke the prefectural government’s permission, issued by his predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, in August last year, for rock reefs to be destroyed for the construction work.

In a March 23 news conference, Onaga said, “I’ve made up my mind.” His move should be regarded as a strong signal of Okinawa’s will that this is effectively an ultimatum by the prefecture.

In pursuing the plan to build an airbase in Henoko to replace the Futenma facilities, the central government has repeatedly said it would continue efforts to win support from people in Okinawa. In reality, however, the government has been quietly but steadily going ahead with the plan without paying any attention to Okinawa’s calls.

Destruction of the rock reefs will alter the configuration of the seabed. To prevent a negative impact on marine resources, prefectural fisheries coordination regulations require advance permission from the prefectural governor for the destruction of such reefs.

The current row between the administration and the prefectural government began in January, when the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the Defense Ministry’s local branch, sank a number of massive concrete blocks onto the seabed as anchors for buoys and floats that indicate the off-limits zones.

The blocks were sunk along the borders of the off-limits zones, which surround the areas where Nakaima approved the destruction of rock reefs for the construction work. This raised concerns about possible damage to coral reefs and other natural elements, prompting the prefectural government to start an on-site inspection on its own.

But the prefecture’s attempt to conduct an inspection in the off-limits areas was rejected by the U.S. military. The local government again submitted a request for U.S. permission for the inspection. When he ordered a suspension of the work, Onaga also asked the Defense Bureau to help with the prefectural government’s inspection.

Onaga, who defeated Nakaima in a gubernatorial election in November, initially called for a suspension of the work until an independent committee set up to assess Nakaima’s approval of land reclamation off Henoko reaches its conclusion.

But the Abe administration ignored his request and forged ahead with the drilling survey.

As for the sinking of concrete blocks, the administration has kept repeating that the Okinawa government headed by Nakaima said the act is not subject to procedures for approval. Tokyo has ignored the Okinawa government’s argument that its permission is required for sinking such massive blocks.

Onaga was elected on a pledge to stop the relocation of the Futenma air base to Henoko. It is only natural for him to use his administrative powers to take action to promote Okinawa’s position on the issue.

Criticizing Onaga’s move, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said, “I hope he will give a little more consideration to the interests of Okinawa Prefecture and Japan’s national security in thinking” about the issue.

But people in Okinawa Prefecture, which is home to an overwhelmingly large proportion of the U.S. bases in Japan, have many questions about the government’s security policy, such as why a base must be built in Henoko and why U.S. Marines have to be stationed in the prefecture.

The administration should make sincere and straightforward responses to these serious questions asked by Okinawa.


プーチン発言 「核準備」の恫喝は認められぬ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Putin’s allusion to being prepared to use nuclear arms is intolerable
プーチン発言 「核準備」の恫喝は認められぬ

It was a threat in which an allusion was made over the use of nuclear weapons. His remarks, made as a leader of a nuclear power, were extremely inappropriate and irresponsible.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “We were ready to do it,” when asked if Russia was prepared to put its nuclear forces on alert over the country’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula last March.

However, he defended himself by saying he believed the Crimea crisis would not evolve into a situation where Russia’s nuclear forces would actually be put into a state of combat readiness.

Nonetheless, his remarks contain extremely serious elements and must not be ignored.

Under the basic guidelines governing its use of nuclear weapons, Russia will use nuclear weapons only in response to an all-out attack by weapons of mass destruction or if the existence of the Russian Federation is threatened.

Around the time Russia annexed Crimea, it was not expected that the country would have to fight for its survival. Thus, Putin’s remarks made a mockery of these guidelines.

A senior official of the Russian Foreign Ministry said, “Russia, in principle, reserves the right to deploy its nuclear arsenal in Crimea.”

The series of remarks by Putin are construed as an attempt by Russia to make its control of Crimea a fait accompli by intimidating the United States and European countries to forestall any intervention.

Russia’s wisdom must be called into question. As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, the country is responsible for maintaining world peace.

Running counter to NPT

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman criticized Putin’s remarks, saying the Russian president has admitted to the whole world that Russian troops not only intervened in Crimea but also were ready to take more aggressive action. Her criticism cannot be faulted.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty calls on signatory countries, including Russia, not to threaten the territorial integrity of other nations with the use of force. It is obvious that Putin’s latest remarks run counter to the spirit of this international treaty.

What is of great concern is that Russia over the past few years has built up its nuclear capability. This also runs against the international trend of nuclear disarmament in the post-Cold War era, a trend symbolized by the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by the United States and Russia.

In his latest remarks, Putin said, “We never thought about severing Crimea from Ukraine until the moment that these events began [with the Ukraine] government overthrow.” With this comment, he admitted that Russia took actions to annex Crimea immediately after Ukraine’s pro-Moscow government led by President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in February last year.

His remarks contradicted his earlier assertion that Russia annexed Crimea because he respected the results of the referendum held last March.

It has been pointed out that Russian special forces intervened and conducted various maneuvers to have the referendum carried out in Crimea.

Putin, who has unilaterally been changing the status quo by force, is becoming a serious cause of uncertainty.

The international community, while financially supporting Ukraine and maintaining its pressure on Russia, must call on Putin to refrain from embarking on any more adventures through words or deeds.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 18, 2015)