Lower House of Japan calls on government to reduce burden on Okinawa

Lower House of Japan calls on government to reduce burden on Okinawa

In a move that marks the 50th anniversary of the prefecture's reversion to Japanese rule, the Lower House has adopted a resolution urging the government to reduce the burden on Okinawa in order to host the bulk of U.S. forces in the country.

The resolution was adopted at a time when defense experts fear for the security of the base-hosting prefecture amid increasing challenges facing the Japan-U. The ongoing Ukraine war between Taiwan and China has resulted in a S. alliance in light of situations such as cross-strait tensions between the two countries.

The House of Representatives also called on the government to make utmost efforts to make Okinawa a stronghold for global peace and stability.

In a Lower House plenary session after the resolution was adopted, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to make tangible progress in reducing the base hosting burden on Okinawa in consideration of the feelings of local residents while maintaining the deterrence capability of the Japan-U. Okinawa remained under U.S. occupation until May 15, 1972, even after Japan restored its sovereignty after defeating World War II based on the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty.

The prefecture still has around 70% of the country's total land area, exclusively used by U.S. military facilities, despite only 0.6% of the country's total land area.

Okinawa is seen as strategic important due to its proximity to the Japanese-owned, Chinese-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Okinawa is also close to Taiwan.

In a plenary session, the Lower House called for the local economy to be revitalized as part of a national strategy, referring to how Okinawa's average income per capita was the lowest among Japan's 47 prefectures.

The resolution said that the government, parliament and prefecture should unite in promoting comprehensive, drastic and sustainable measures to shore up Okinawa's development. The Lower House said that there was a need for nurturing talent in the arts and education.

Local residents also celebrated the 70th anniversary of the San Francisco Peace Treaty on Thursday, both at sea and on land. April 28 is widely regarded as a day of insult in Okinawa. Around 20 boats sailed from Kunigami on the northern tip of Okinawa and from Yoron on the southern tip of Kagoshima Prefecture to recreate a scene reminiscent of the protests in the 1960s calling for the reversion of Okinawa. The participants sang a song which was popular at the time, seeking the return of Okinawa.

The Amami Islands, including Yoron, remained under U.S. control until 1953, a year after the treaty took effect, and boats frequently sailed in the 1960s to the waters between Yoron and Okinawa to rally for the reversal of Okinawa.

Around 70 people also held a rally in front of the Okinawa prefectural office protesting the government's move to move forward with a plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma without any public will.

The protestors carried a banner calling for Okinawa to be a peaceful island without military bases. Tensions between the central government and Okinawa Prefecture remain high as the government continues to move ahead with the Futenma relocation plan, which has been stalled because residents are divided over the issue.

Japan and the United States have been pushing to have the Futenma base, located in a residential area of Ginowan, relocated to the less populated coastal area of Henoko in Nago.

In Okinawa, hosting U.S. bases remains a controversial issue due to incidents involving U.S. servicemen over the years as well as increasing regional and international security concerns.