Central government, Naha still divided on sovereignty celebration


The central government and Okinawa Prefecture remain far apart over holding a state-sponsored ceremony April 28 to celebrate the 61st anniversary of the restoration of sovereignty to Japan after its defeat in World War II.

Since Okinawa was kept under U.S. control even after the April 28, 1952, effectuation of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which ended the postwar Occupation by the Allied Powers, people in the prefecture are strongly opposed to the central government’s decision to mark the day with celebration.

In the prefecture, April 28 has long been remembered as a day of humiliation. Many residents think Okinawa was abandoned by the Japanese government on that day in 1952.

On March 29, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly unanimously passed a resolution protesting the ceremony, which will be held in Tokyo.

Amid strong public opposition to the event, Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima decided not to attend the ceremony but instead send Vice Gov. Kurayoshi Takara on his behalf.

But Takeshi Noda, chief of the Liberal Democratic Party’s tax panel and the main driver of the ceremony, stressed the significance of the April 28 event.

“It is important for the Japanese people to review why the country went to war, why it was defeated and how it was governed during the Occupation period,” Noda said.

In its campaign platform for the House of Representatives election last December, the LDP, which was then the biggest opposition party, included plans to hold the ceremony for the first time ever, on April 28, to mark the recovery of Japan’s of sovereignty.

After the party ousted the Democratic Party of Japan from power in the election, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also heads the LDP, made a decision on the event at a Cabinet meeting on March 12.

The Amami Islands, which belong to Kagoshima Prefecture, and the Ogasawara Islands, situated some 1,000 km south of Tokyo, were also kept under U.S. control after the San Francisco treaty took effect.

For people in Okinawa, however, it is emotionally difficult to accept the sovereignty ceremony because its own reversion to Japan took longer than the return of the two island chains, and the U.S. military presence in Okinawa remains heavy.

The Amami Islands were returned in 1953, the Ogasawara Islands in 1968 and Okinawa in 1972.

Traffic and other accidents and crimes involving U.S. servicemen have been frequent in Okinawa. Yet, Abe is believed to have decided to hold the April 28 ceremony to demonstrate Japan’s uncompromising stance over sovereignty and territorial issues, sources said. Japan is embroiled in disputes with China over the Senkakus, with South Korea over two islands in the Sea of Japan, and with Russia over four islands off Hokkaido.