The Abe Cabinet on March 12 decided to hold a ceremony on April 28 to commemorate the day that Japan recovered its sovereignty under the San Francisco Peace Treaty 61 years ago on April 28, 1952. But another aspect of the peace treaty must not be forgotten. As it took effect, the Okinawa, Amami and Ogasawara islands were administratively separated from Japan and placed under the administrative rights of the United States.
Holding such a ceremony was one of the Liberal Democratic Party’s campaign promises in December’s Lower House election. Mr. Abe has said that an increasing number of young people do not know that Japan was occupied by the Allied Powers for seven years. He also said that on the anniversary, Japan will confirm the significance of its contributions to peace and prosperity of the international community.
Since Mr. Abe is calling for revisions of the Constitution — specifically revising the war-renouncing Article 9 in an effort to establish full-fledged armed forces — the possibility cannot be ruled out that he will try to use the ceremony to insinuate that since the Constitution was written during the Occupation, it has legitimacy problems. This would be an insult to the generations of Japanese who rebuilt Japan after the war and turned it into an economic superpower, all the while abiding by the principles of the peace Constitution.
Mr. Abe said that the fact that the Okinawa, Amami and Ogasawara islands were placed under the U.S. administrative rights should not be forgotten. But people in Okinawa will not accept the ceremony. They and people in the Amami Islands have dubbed April 28, 1952, “the day of humiliation.” The Okinawan people’s memory of the expropriation of Okinawan land with “bayonets and bulldozers” by the U.S. for use as military facilities is still fresh.
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima said that he would like to treat the anniversary ceremony as a day to remember that the Okinawan people have overcome various difficulties and to make a determination to create history open to the future and full of hopes. But he did not forget to add that the Okinawan people do not forget the fact that April 28, 1952, marked the first step that led to the “excessively heavy burden” of the U.S. military presence in their prefecture.
Mr. Abe should not forget the possibility that many Okinawans may think that by holding the ceremony the government is being callous to their feelings. The ceremony takes place at a time when the Okinawa prefectural assembly and all the municipal assemblies in Okinawa oppose the government plan to move the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the northern part of Okinawa Island. The ceremony will deepen the psychological schism between the Okinawans and government leaders.
Many Okinawans already feel that the central government and people in other parts of Japan lack an understanding of the suffering caused by the heavy U.S. military presence in Okinawa. The government should not ignore their sentiments.