Escalating tensions over militarisation in Okinawa spark protests
As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, the continued presence of U.S military in Japan has often been a flash point for citizen-led mobilisations. In the context of growing tensions in the region, there have been mass mobilisations against the U.S.'s actions to strengthen military operations in the country to counter increasing aggression from North Korea.
Okinawa residents demand Ospreys be grounded in light of crash off Australia https://t.co/WY4nqOaufE— The Japan Times (@japantimes) August 12, 2017
On 12th August 2017, a mass mobilisation took place over the relocation of a U.S Marine Corps Air Base in Okinawa. Organised by the The All Okinawa Kaigi (All Okinawa Coalition), the protest mobilised over 45,000 people to assemble in protest against the move. The protest, held in Onoyama track stadium, called on Japanese authorities to resist the U.S military's resumption of accident-prone Osprey helicopters over the local prefecture. The helicopters had previously been involved in several crashes, prompting locals to question the safety of their flight paths over Okinawa. Co-representative of the All Okinawa Kaigi, Ai Tamaki, commented on the complex and controversial political situation, stating that:
"The lives of individuals living in the prefecture should not be allowed to become ‘sacrifice stones’ in order to maintain and strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance”.
While there were no reports of the protest being unlawfully disrupted, escalating tensions in the region have sparked fears that Japan could be further militarised, which would perhaps lead to increased tensions between citizens in Okinawa and authorities in Tokyo.