- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

Tadae Takubo, a professor of international relations at Kyorin University in Tokyo, spoke to reporter Takehiko Kambayashi of The Washington Times about U.S.-Japan security ties and the U.S. military presence on Okinawa. A columnist for the daily Sankei Shimbun, Mr. Takubo was Washington bureau chief for Jiji Press, a Japanese news agency, during the presidency of Richard Nixon.

Question: You have criticized the Japanese government’s response to the Aug. 13 crash of a U.S. military helicopter into a building on the campus of Okinawa International University in Ginowan City, adjacent to Futenma U.S. Marine Air Station on Okinawa. Why?

Answer: [When Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine went to the prime minister’s office soon after the accident,] the prime minister [who was taking a summer vacation] made no effort to meet him. Okinawans have an antipathy to the U.S. military presence on the island. So whenever there is a problem in Okinawa — even a small one — the government really must meet them.

In 1995, [when a 12-year-old Okinawan girl was raped by three U.S. servicemen,] then-Gov. Masahide Ota flew to Tokyo to call for revisions of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), but then-Foreign Minister Yohei Kono flatly said no.

The prime minister did the same thing as Mr. Kono had done. The government seems to think it’s OK as long as no Japanese was hurt, even though the helicopter crashed there. We see unbearable insensitivity in [Prime Minister Junichiro] Koizumi and leaders in the Foreign Ministry. If Mr. Koizumi had met Inamine then, the situation would not have gotten so bad.

Okinawa, infuriated by this attitude, started pointing to one SOFA flaw after another. Then the prime minister’s office and the Foreign Ministry suddenly began trying to please Okinawa more than necessary, saying they would consider improvements in the administration of SOFA.

But Okinawans now demand more strongly that the relocation of Futenma should not go forward as agreed by SACO (the Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee on Okinawa). They call for immediate closure of Futenma and the suspension of construction on an alternate site.

We always have the same pattern: In the end, Okinawa gets more government money and shouts “We won!”

Nobody explains the most important part of the issue to Okinawa; that is, the significance of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and America’s unprecedented fight against terrorism, which is far different from previous challenges.

The government should fly to Okinawa and say to them: “The international situation has changed a lot, so could you be more patient for the sake of Japan and Okinawa?” We lack such an explanation.

Q: We often hear U.S. and Japanese experts say the number of American troops on the island should be reduced, especially at a time when Washington is working on military reconfiguration.

A: U.S. Marines stationed on Okinawa play a significant role as deterrent. Without their presence, how could Japan deal with threats that the country is facing now on the Korean Peninsula or the Taiwan Strait?

I would say I agree with the reduction in the Marines. However, if 10,000 U.S. troops should go home, the Japanese government would have to say that Japan will make up for the decrease by boosting the number of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

Japan-U.S. relations are marked by an enormous imbalance in military strength between the two nations. These days, we’ve been hearing more Japanese complain that Japan is becoming a “dependency” of America. Japan could really become one if we continue to maintain such an imbalance.

I believe it important to have further development of Japan-U.S. relations after Japan beefs up its military.

Q: So you think the level of cooperation between the SDF and the U.S. military should increase?

A: Certainly. We should advocate that Article 9 of the Constitution be changed to say that military forces are the nation’s defense. One of the nation’s visions should be the creation of true armed forces.

We need to gradually strengthen our military power to achieve that vision, and should build such an alliance in Asia as the United States has with Britain.

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