2013年04月26日 US02_ On Opposing the Immediate Returns of Bases  1st place submission in the Sankei Shimbun Essay Contest

On Opposing the Immediate Returns of Bases

1st place submission in the Sankei Shimbun Essay Contest

(Translator’s notes in Italics.)

Writer: Ryunosuke Megumi

Born Feb 1952. Okinawa; resides in Naha. Graduate National Defense

Academy, MSDF service prior to current employment as analyst for Bank of the Ryukyus. Author: “The Emperor’s Own Captain: the Life of Kenwa Kanna”. First submission to Sankei News.

The truth is, Okinawa today is caught up in an extraordinary atmosphere which permits no real discussion of the base returnsand realignments.

Although there are voices reportedly even within the Okinawa Press Club that decry such radical extremes, none of this is reflected in the pages of our local papers. Indeed, the media consistently and constantly portrays the people of Okinawa as united in a common desire for elimination of the bases.

Based on what the economic impact would be, I am opposed to any rushed returns of US military installations in Okinawa.

Originally, the Prefectural Administration sponsored a General Rally in October to protest the rape of a young girl. There a non-partisan crowd assembled which supported reductions of the base presence. However by December, this (platform) was changed to a call for complete elimination of the bases in 20 years, by the year 2015.

Not a word has been said about economic conditions in the wake of the returns.

Okinawa economy is only 22% self-sustaining; all the remaindercomes from national coffers. The city budgets of the Prefecture’s primary urban districts of Naha and Okinawa are more than 90% subsidized. If these were commercial enterprises, they would have long since been declared bankrupt.

Meanwhile, the Prefecture’s population continues its steady climb, and has shown a 4.1% rise over the last five years to its current 1,273,508 (vis a vis, national growth rate of 1.6%).

Over the same period, the rate of bankruptcies has been nearly double the national average at 7.1%, in an economy almost totally contained in the tertiary sector (i.e., service sector).

Livelihoods of 1.3 Million Not Sustainable Pre-war, Okinwa’s economy was based on farming, primarily of sugarcane;the lack ofarable meant young men left to find work on the mainland and also forced overseas emigrations. Accordingly, the pre-war population peaked at 597,902 with an average five year growth rate of 0.5%.

The reason the population has nearly doubled in the 50 years since the War because the US military provided GARIOA(Goverment & Relief in Occupied Areas) and EROA funding from a then affluent United States, and the post-Reversion are has been supported by massive infusions from the Japan’s national coffers.

Significantly, at Reversion, the OPG courted major mainland industrialists in a bio to establish a self-sustaining economy, but was rebuffed because Okinawan labor was too deeply colored by politics. Not one firm established an Okinawa base.

Consequently Okinawa is dependent upon the military base derivatives and the Government announced a 5% increase over the preceding year’s payments in FY’96 land rents to 70,400,000,000 yen (approx. US $740 million). Any town, village or city with a base included in its boundaries is granted subsidies in the form of Base Presence Compensation, Enhancements to the Compensation Funds, and direct subsidies for individual homes and families neighboring the installations, which account for an average 20% of the income of these municipalities. A portion of the 

population has been severely critical of such monies, calling them “unearned fruits” and blaming them for debilitating the Okinawan will to work. And with economic conditions both within and outside the Prefecture so harsh, not only has the Prefecture’s announced program to eliminate all bases caused confusion and uncertainty among the nearly 7,500 Japanese base employees, the 28,000 land owners (of whom some 2,800 are anti-war protesters) and the many enterprises serving the military bases, it has shaken the very foundations of the entire economy of Okinawa.

Then why has the Okinawa Prefecture Government continued in its stubborn adherence to the ideological positions of a limited anti-military constituency and insisted on total base removals.The problems have their roots in the role the Okinawa Development

Agency has Played in keeping Okinawa Prefecture Government free of the interactions normally required of any other Prefectures in obtaining national funding.

Essential to Peace in the Far East

if Okinawans are to have the attitudes and thinking that accompany true independence, I believe (the functions of) the Okinawa Development Agency must be reduced and halted. And all funding from the national government must be first applied to the growth of our human resources and similar “software”

development aspects.

The high cost of mainland newspapers has constrained most of thepopulation to reading the two local papers which have seriously slanted views. As a rule, both papers report only the nagatives of the military presence. I have to say I respect the US

military’s efforts to affect Okinawa’s recovery. Notably, 1100 or so people in the 50 to 60 year old age group whith form the current leadership of Okinawa ware the beneficiaries of past US military grants which allowed them the experience of studyingat US universities. Including the Governor Ota.

Next, let me address the Japan-US Security Treaty. As ever, we find ourselves in conditions which allows for no margin of error.

The issues include China’s development of nuclear weapons along with the expensions of its military power, the worsening relations between China and Taiwan, and the issue of the DPRK 

(Democratic Peoples’s Republic of Korea); to wit, the sparks setting ablaze the next international conflict may come from

here in the Far East. In this aspect, the US military presence in Japan is a crucial deterrent and necessary to preserving peace in the Far East. The movement to eliminate the bases is based on a philosophy of unarmed neutrality. However, their thinking does not address the realities of the Spratley Islands issues, nor of the duties and constraints of neutrality under international law.

1996 brought an escalation of the tensions between China and Taiwan.

Assuring the ability of Okinawa’s bases to function directly impacts not only the Japan-US relationship but on the future security of the nations of Asia.

I would want the Government not to keep the Okinawa problem at arm’s length, but apply its informed strengh after analyzing the real is sues.

2013年04月26日 US01_”Gov. Ota accused of duping public over bases”in the stars and stripes       Megumi Ryunosuke is cited in an article

Megumi Ryunosuke is cited in an article

“Gov. Ota accused of duping public over bases” in the stars and stripes.

TOKYO– Okinawa Gov, Masahide Ota and the prefecture’s news mediaare misleading the world on the level of local suport for U.S.

bases, said an Okinawa banker who returned from a U.S.

Information Agency-sponsored speaking tour in the United States.

The truth, according to Ryunosuke Megumi, is that many more Okinawans suupport the large U.S. military presence than some island leaders would have the world belive.

Speaking Monday in Tokyo to a gathering of businesspeople and journalists, the 43-year-old bank manager also contends that some leaders of Okinawan groups opposed to the U.S. bases are sympathetic to North Korea and oppose the U.S-Japan alliance.

Writing in the May issue of the nationally distrubuted Japanese magazine The Shokun, Megumi had particular criticism for Selichi Sakugawa, a professor in Okinawa University’s constitutional law department.

Megumi alleged in his Shokun article that Sakugawa, in speeches in Japan and during a U.S. visit, sympathized with North Korea and opposed the U.S-Japan security alliance.

Megumi said Monday the Okinawa news media and Gov.Masahide Ota are ignoring wide support for the more than 27,000 U.S. trops on Okinawa, where U.S. military bases occupy one-fifth of the island’s land. He said they are misleading world-opinionmakers, particularly in that many are not told that most Okinawan landowners who object to forced leasing of land on U.S. bases only own small plots measuring a few spuare feet as a means of protesting.

Megumi said the 3,085 amti-military landowners own “no more than 0.2 percent”of the total land leased for bsses, and many live in other parts of Japan.

“Governor Ota and the mass media,” he said ” are focusing only on negative aspects of the U.S. military.” He added that opponents are biased in that they do not report on any benefits.

Referring to often-cited complaints about crimes by U.S. troops, Megimi said Ota has ignored domestic crime committed by Japanese and other problems.

He said the felony rate by Okinawans is “1.6 times the national average” in Japan and juvenile deliquency is “triple the national average.” Concerning a plan to build a floating heliport near the U.S. Marines’ Camp Schwab to reduce air traffic at the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, Megumi contended that most Okinawans would prefer a land-based facility because it would provide greater benefits to the local economy.

Megumi, with the Bank of the Ryukus in Okinawa’s capital of Naha, said it would be “impossible” to attract substantial business investments to replace jobs at the U.S. bases. He said potential new businesses would balk at Okinawa wages, which are higher thanthose in China, Taiwan and Singapore.

During his monthlong speaking tour in the United States, organized by the USIA’s visitors’ program, Megumi said he tried to give Americans the “practical view” he said many Okinawans hold.

A gradute of Japan’s Defense Academy and a former junior officer with the Maritime Self-Defense Force, Megumi said he spoke with U.S. military and civilian audiences in Wahington, D.C.; New York; Nashville, Tenn.; Miami; Puerto Rico; and Hawaii.