In her Sept. 15 letter, “An absurd moral comparison,” Jennifer Kim is right to say it’s a false comparison between the U.S. bases in Okinawa and Japan’s occupation of Korea. In fact, there is more mileage to be had by comparing Japan’s treatment of Korea and Okinawa.
The Ryukyu Kingdom was independent until it was invaded and subjugated by a Satsuma (Kagoshima) clan, then annexed by the Meiji government, which set about systematically eradicating Ryukyu culture, language and identity. The wartime military government sacrificed Okinawa to the United States, effectively using its citizens as human shields. Japanese governments since the war have treated it merely as a site for U.S. bases, while failing to tackle the problems of unemployment and how to make the local economy viable. I really wouldn’t blame Okinawa if it were to secede from Japan.
Free of Tokyo’s subservience to the U.S., an independent Okinawa could negotiate on its own terms with the U.S. military, set its own travel visa rules to allow more tourism from China and, crucially, keep all the revenue from tourism to invest in its own industry, rather than being chronically dependent on handouts and tourism from mainland Japan.
Some Japanese people to whom I’ve suggested this say China would invade instantly, but this is preposterous. The specter of a Chinese attack is just a fantasy conjured up by nationalist politicians to justify the bases’ continued presence.
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