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New Year 2011, Okinawa and the Future of East Asia

Author(s): Gavan McCormack | Norimatsu Satoko | Mark Selden

Journal: Asia-Pacific Journal : Japan Focus
ISSN 1557-4660

Volume: 9;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 3;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Japan | Okinawa | Ishigaki | Okinawan resistance | US militarization

The mood across East Asia as 2011 dawns is one of foreboding. Can the militarization and confrontation that gathered momentum through 2010 in the spiral of incidents (Cheonan in March, Senkaku in September, Yeonpyeong in November) and massive regional war rehearsals by the US and its allies be halted and reversed? The fear that events might slide during 2011 into catastrophe is hard to resist.In Japan, the gloom was compounded by a sense of despair at the betrayal of its electoral pledges by the Democratic Party of Japan, and the reassertion of precisely the clientelist and neo-liberal policies the DPJ had attacked on the part of its conservative Liberal Democratic Party predecessors when it won office in 2009. Then, Hatoyama Yukio, enjoying near landslide support, promised far-reaching change: an "equal" relationship with the United States, closer ties with China, the vision of an East Asian Community and the transformation of the South China Sea into a "Sea of Fraternité," a reversal of the "structural" (i.e., inequality deepening) "reforms" of the LDP, and the recovery without substitution in Okinawa of the US base lands in the middle of Ginowan City (Futenma Marine Air Station). By late 2010, these promises had either evaporated or been reversed under a combination of American and conservative Japanese pressures, and reinstatement of policies if anything to the right of the LDP. As this happened, the nine month Hatoyama government's support fell steadily, from 70 plus per cent in September 2009 to around 20 per cent in May 2010 on the eve of its collapse, and that of the Kan Naoto government that succeeded it from 60 plus per cent in June 2010 to around 25 per cent by year's end. One looked in vain to the Kan government for any regional or global diplomatic initiative to reverse the vicious cycle of regional confrontation. Instead, it seemed to have embraced at least as passionately as its predecessor the role of US subordinate "client state" in which resort to military power increasingly overshadowed diplomacy.Yet the process of reconstituting state and economy in Japan to advance the clientelist and neo-liberal agenda is not without challenge. That challenge is best seen through focus on the contest between the national government, the bureaucracy, and almost all the national media on the one hand, and the people of one region, Okinawa, on the other, odds so unequal as to defy even such analogies as David and Goliath.
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