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Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Okinawa: Should the US leave the island?
Long standing tensions have been re-ignited on the Japanese island of Okinawa after the arrest of a US serviceman suspected of raping a woman.
Okinawa is still the key to American military power in the region - US marines could be deployed to Korea or Taiwan within a few hours from their Okinawan bases.
But the American presence continues to be a source of great resentment for the locals.
Many Okinawans object to the fact that while the island makes up only 1% of Japan's land, it is expected to play host to the majority of the 47,000 American troops stationed in the country.
Should the US pull out of Okinawa? Or would this destabilise the strategic balance on the island?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I'm not sure about the US leaving, but the way US military personnel are 'let off' time after time must be reviewed. This has been a rare case that US military personnel have been arrested. In most cases they just get sent home, get posted elsewhere and pretend nothing has happened. If US cannot respect the local laws, then we Japanese don't need the so-called protection from these people.
Leah Harlow, UK
I really pity the Okinawans. If anyone could recall or had read Okinawa earlier history, you will realise that, compared with the mainland Japanese, Okinawa (who has her own unique history and culture) was once an independent kingdom. Before the American troops landed in Okinawa in WWII, the Japanese destroyed much of the evidence of her past. It is not fair for Okinawa, which represents some part of the country's surface, to play host to the majority of the Americans troops that stationed in Japan. This shows that the Japanese hardly treat the Okinawans as equal.
Sayonara, US military bases - you're the weakest link.
Recently I had a good talk with some of my Asian friends from
Hong Kong and Korea. They all agreed the point that the US
should LEAVE from Japan and Asia. Let Asians have chance
to discuss issues within Asia on our own. We don't need the
US, you are the troublemaker in our region.
The American soldiers lack respect for Japanese women, they lack respect for Japanese laws and they lack respect for the expectation of civilised conduct. American soldiers treat Okinawa like a toilet and a brothel in the most literal of senses. The Second Great War is history. The continued punishment of Japan and Germany for crimes committed by governments that no longer exist is unreasonable. The 55-year occupation of Japan and Germany must come to an end. We are powerful democratic states, not dictatorships ruled by tyrannical terrorists.
I find it disturbing that many American soldiers are running wild in other countries. I have talked to soldiers who say they were often getting drunk, fighting, womanising, harassing women etc. and that porn was everywhere on the bases. American soldiers are representatives of our country and they should behave with decency and respect to present a positive image of the United States wherever they go in the world. Maybe if the military starts to teach our soldiers to behave with decency, respect and self-discipline on foreign assignments, they might find themselves much more welcome.
The bases in Okinawa, and the rest of the Asian peninsula, are key to the defence of the United States and its allies. A major pullout in this area will destabilise the region, and put many people at risk.
The US needs to stay there, but the soldier that committed this crime should be court-martialled.
The USA should consider if Taiwan, Korea and China would be comfortable with a reduction in the US presence - it acts as a buffer between them and Japan and may provide reassurance against any resurgence in Japanese militarism. It's not all about protecting Japan!
Joshua Funo, Canada
Sure, if you want a war in East Asia that is. The departure of the United States from Japan would promote instability, not promote peace. The Japanese would have to drastically increase their military spending and military operations in East Asia to fill the void, including amending their constitution to allow offensive capability. Beijing would respond to this by further increasing its already bold Cold War stance arms build up and by becoming even more belligerent in the Sea of Japan and in the South China Sea. There is no such thing as security through intentional weakness and through leaving a vacuum, although the Europeans continue to advocate this theory that intentional weakness promotes peace.
Su, Japan (UK)
Saying that US military protection of Japan should end simply because of problems with US soldiers mingling with society is like prescribing morphine for mild acne. Sure revisit the agreement, but suggesting that Japan should not be protected against China because one girl was possibly raped by an American serviceman is a bit extreme.
I feel we need to keep a military presence in other countries, especially in Asia for quick response of troops if and when the time comes. This type of behaviour that's becoming more obvious in today's military I feel is caused from our "kinder, more gentle" military approach. I've witnessed on too many occasions, first hand, the change and decay of our military readiness as well as the quality of personnel because of this wonderful new concept. How many more times do rapes have to occur, how many more incidents have to happen upsetting other nations before we begin looking at the mess we ourselves have created and clean up our own backyard?
Until we allow our superiors to act and lead to the best of their abilities without worries of harassment, discrimination or other charges being brought against them, we can expect to see an increase in rapes and other problems with our closely watched fighting force.
Richard Banner, USA
Once upon a time Japan had self-confidence, in a way too much. I regret it caused grief and pain upon the neighbouring countries and their own citizens. All that changed sixty years ago when she lost the war. Put it bluntly, Japan is now nothing but a cowardly, spineless nation who can't even defend itself. Maybe it is time for the US to move out from the country and let Japan defend itself so that she can finally come out from the "Oh no I can't do it that, it may offend somebody" mentality. Remember the Meiji slogan, "Fokoku Kyouhei"- Build Japan economically rich and militarily powerful. It is time for Japan to come out from the nutshell, regain the lost trust from the neighbouring countries and take an active role in the peacekeeping in this ever de-stabilising region.
I agree with most of what has been said. While the American government wants all these bases, American people do not. While all this money leaves our country to help others, we would be better off keeping the money here to help our own impoverished people in the inner cities, Appalachia, on the reservations and other areas. Let the rest of the world deal with their own problems and their people.
Kate Chan, Singapore
This has always been a hotly debated issue, but there is always more attention focussed on it after a tragic incident like the rape of young schoolgirls. The issue needs to be discussed at length, and with consideration for all concerned (including the Asian region as a whole). As for the rape issue, sadly thousands are raped in Tokyo each year, but there is very LITTLE focus on this problem. But it isn't so easy to point fingers at any particular group in Tokyo, so it doesn't make the headlines (but it doesn't make it less of a problem, does it?)
Along with most Americans we would love to leave Europe and Asia and keep our boys home but unfortunately the world will not allow us to do so. Non-Americans get so high-and-mighty saying we should pack up and leave - except history and foreign governments will not let us. Peace is provided through these deployments.
I believe the US military should be brought home from many foreign bases, especially if the host country wants us out. Then that country can defend itself.
Tony Pascuzzo, Canadian in Japan
On the subject of the behaviour of the US abroad, I'm sure Okinawa is not an isolated case, and there is a danger that one is left generalising against the entire US navy. Of course it's the case that the majority of these forces are well-disciplined professionals, but those that cross the line should be investigated by the local authorities with the full co-operation of the US. Only then will the hate and resentment placed on them be removed. They are the most powerful nation in the world and like it or not they must be deployed to help keep the peace. Look at the way Japan, China and N. Korea have behaved towards each other in the past and recently.
Britain held this role when we were THE super power, and it caused resentment toward us. The difference is that we held our servicemen accountable for their actions, hence our excellent reputation worldwide. I admit, that American 'diplomacy' does leave a lot to be desired.
Surely the Okinawans have been subjected to enough already.The US does need to realise that the island is not some kind of American playground for boys with big toys. It is time now for Tokyo to tell Washington that Japan can indeed look after itself.
Okinawa has several bases and camps - Navy, Airforce, Marine Corps. (I was born in Okinawa and lived there for 15 years). Over the years, US has returned some lands to the locals. While the Japanese government desires US presence in the Pacific, the locals resent the fact that the burden falls upon them. I believe that to compensate the Japanese government has funded and given much money to the Okinawans. While I think US forces will dwindle in number, the 'tensions' in the Pacific will not allow them to fully evacuate. Just an example, the recent arms deal with Taiwan exemplifies US's stance and influence there. Don't expect US forces to ever leave soon - Okinawa is just too important strategically.
Michael Entill, UK
We should be out of there as soon as possible!
No, the US forces should remain, until such time as Japanese children's history textbooks tell the truth about the 1930-40's. My reason for this attitude is because I used to sit next to a friend in primary school who used to fall asleep during lessons. The reason for this was because his father had been a Japanese POW and even after 15 years he still woke up in the night screaming with nightmares. It leaves an impression on a young schoolboy and nothing I have since learnt leads me to believe that the Japanese have changed.
As an X-USAF 5-year vet, I believe the US military should pull out of all countries. The United States should stop being the world's police department. All countries should fend for themselves.
The people who live on this group of islands have suffered greatly under the US army. Since 1951, there has been over 4,900 cases of grave crimes (such as rapes and murders) committed by US servicemen against the Japanese population. No wonder, people from Okinawa want those troops to be removed.
I am totally disgusted with the comments made by Matt Walsh. How he can say that Okinawa belongs to the States? The US always tries to justify the atrocities they commit: Vietnam, Hiroshima & Nagasaki for example. But there is no excuse. One day America is heading for a big fall. I look forward to it.
Rhys Chen, Singapore
Earlier it was British who reached Asian shores displaying friendly intentions and finally occupied those lands. Today it is American's turn. Is it really to protect Japan or to protect US interests?
There is no need for any Army at all. It is time for us to disband the world's armies and that includes NATO. Each country can protect itself with its police forces. We could merge police and army and develop more pacifist organisations. Okinawa is not a US state. The US Army have no rights to stay there.
The 30,000 or so US forces on the island account for less than 10% of the crime. In other words, in the month of June there could be 10 rapes by Okinawans, but it is the one rape by a US member that makes every headline, while the others are suppressed to the back pages.
No the US should not leave. Staying has nothing to do with WW2. It has everything to do with the support of democracy in what in a potentially highly unstable region. Perhaps the Japanese would prefer China to 'occupy' Okinawa instead.
The US Armed Forces should not leave Okinawa, but lawless service members should. Given unstable factors like tensions in Taiwan and Korea, the US presence in Okinawa remains vital for peace and stability in Asia. But American personnel in Okinawa have to be aware that US troops are deployed there as peacekeepers, not as troublemakers.
The Japanese owe us Okinawa. We earned it through blood and iron via World War II. Our young men died, marched to their grave, or were tortured by the barbaric Japanese military. Our blood was shed on that island. We earned it. If the Japanese won an Aleutian Island during the War, they would refuse to leave as well.
If there is any trouble in that part of the world again I am sure the massive military might of the Australians and New Zealanders could handle the problem without us. I would really like to see us pull out. I would not want my sons to take part in any conflict in that part of the world.
Jason Stevens, U.S.A.
All too often, members of the armed forces may forget they represent their country and cause insult and injury through stupid actions. Okinawa has been contentious for some time now, and this has been exacerbated by poor judgment in the treatment of the local population by some military members. If Okinawa wants us out, then we should leave.
Whether or not there is a strategic significance to Okinawa, there should be no long term presence of USA forces in any foreign land. We have been there long enough. It is time for Japan and her neighbours to take care of themselves.
Ironically if not foolishly, the Americans love to think that they're being welcomed or at least wanted no matter where they go in the world, invited or self-invited. However, I must tell you right here and now that AMERICANS ARE NOT WELCOME IN JAPAN! Plus, you've already borrowed too much from us and we have no more to lend you and make you the "richest" country in the world.
Samyak, Nepal (currently in Japan)
Remember that the US presence in Japan is to offer protection. The Japanese military is considered a "self-defence force" by its own people, which is to say it is simply an extension of their police force with military hardware. If the US leaves Japan, then the Japanese will have to considerably strengthen their own military which currently is almost insignificant compared to their American protectors.
As an American tax payer and former Marine Corps officer my attitude is bring everyone home and let the world fend for themselves. Enough American capital and blood have been shed for the world. Many who chant "Yankee Go Home!" now will be first to squeal for protection when the tables turn. So be it. It's not my problem. Pax Romana.
The US is spoiling for a war with China; removing US troops from Okinawa, far from destabilizing the strategic balance, is likely to preserve it: the further US forces are from China, the better.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland
When so many young men are stationed at so many diverse places
undertaking so many missions, it takes only a very few to badly behave to paint all of the people with a bad reputation. The US is involved in
many places and so we see occasional instances of this arise. The alliance and strategic importance of the US/Japan co-operation in Okinawa is too great to allow us to abandon this. We should focus
our attention on the specific problems and solve these and other friction points as we are able.
It is up to the two governments to decide whether to there is a pull out or not. Wherever you get a concentration of servicemen you will get the odd case of criminality created by a very small number of those servicemen, however the vast majority are decent law abiding individuals. What does need to be amended is the US position that they will not automatically hand over their servicemen who are suspects of a criminal act for investigation by the local police force. This will remove the impression that US servicemen are above the law of the land which hosts them.
I served two tours on Okinawa with the Marine Corps. We were sent to Korea in 1978 when the North Korean tunnels under the DMZ were discovered. Reinforcement from America is way too slow. We need to stay in the interests of stability, but we need to return to a much more rigorous discipline of our people there. The Okinawans are good people, and they deserve respect.
Tim Wielgos, Chicago, USA
Ask the Japanese. Let them hold a referendum on the matter and then respect their decision.
Answer the question simply: It's "no" right now. I think, in fact, Japanese and Asian peace is protected by US military presence, Japan's self-defence army does not have enough power for deal armed tension or conflict. The incident is sad, but we need US presence to keep Japanese and Asian peace right now.
Frankly, as one who has lived in Korea for over nine years, I simply don't see any reason why we should be in Asia at all. We have trained and equipped the armies of South Korea and Japan for over 50 years, so if they aren't ready to fight by now, they never should be. Also, I simply don't get any warm feeling from the local populace like I did when I lived in Germany for 18 years. Our first line of defence ought to be the Marianas.
Misuzu Matsuoka, Japan
The US must leave Okinawa because Japan needs to establish a leadership position in Asia next to China. To maintain peace and harmony among Asian Nations, Japan cannot connive with a foreign nation in its shores and assume the post of a leader. It is a sore point for America to keep a military base in an area whose population choose to solve conflicts of their own.
I think the Americans should pull out of the Japanese islands.
Yes. The US troops should leave at once. After that they can leave the UK as well.
Okinawa? Yes the US should leave the Island even today. The local people there do not want them because of their bad behaviour. Their presence might have been justified in the past but NOT any more. Let them leave or they should be treated according to Japanese law, no negotiations! So deal with the rape suspect firmly!
Having just returned from a conference in Copenhagen, it's evident the Germans want the Americans out. In the UK we have a base in the Yorkshire Countryside & I would like all of my native Yorkshire back, including so-called US soil. From reading US comments it seems clear that nobody, including the US wants American troops overseas, so lets say thanks for joining WW2 as soon as you could & hope that George Doobyah Bush doesn't start WW3 all by himself. In case this sounds anti-American - I have lots of close friends in the US & they generally agree with my comments.
If Japan would agree to augment Korean forces in the event of a conflict, then yes the base could be closed. The Japanese still have the ability to mount offensive action if required, like Germany, trust should now be given to the Japanese people to do what is right for their region. America is an ally not a threat, but the large-scale presence of forces of another country on your soil will always cause conflict. It was the same in Germany and to some point the United Kingdom - much resent still exists here over US defence policy, although most of it is ill-informed.
I do remember some Saturday nights in German cities, in the 1980s, where locals weren't happy with their American and British military neighbours, either. But basically, we felt comfortable with their presence here. Okinawa may be a different story, as it is about really different cultures, but if the Japanese have the kind of feelings about China, that we had about the Soviet Union, I guess their interest in US military presence will prevail.
Oh that all and everything that is American would just leave the planet!
It is simply part of American Neo-Colonialism. Where there are military bases there's influence.
No we shouldn't leave Japan. Japan's Navy used live ammunition for the first time since WW2 last year against a North Korean Sub. North Korea continues to shoot missiles over the nation of Japan. The area is not stable enough for us the only remaining super power to leave the Japanese people to defend themselves.
The US should leave Okinawa as soon as possible. We sometimes have visits from US aircraft carriers here in Fremantle. On each occasion there is at least one rape reported, and often beatings as well. If this is the case here, then in Okinawa it must be dreadful. The Americans as a nation are crass and ignorant of other cultures, and it is this which leads to most of the problems. It is interesting to note then when British, French, Japanese or any other navy visits us, there is never any similar incident.
Given the United States' ghastly record with occupational forces (see records about the aftermath of the Spanish-American War) our pullout of the force should have been immediate after it had outlived its strategic virtue. With the US relying mainly on its ballistic missile arsenal(sp?)to maintain peace, and the region in a position where no war will probably break out, its only value is as a focal point of force in the region. American grandstanding should not override the rights of the native people we are "protecting" from threats that haven't truly existed for decades.
Nicholas Lud, Australia
The issue of the locals wanting the troops there is a divided one indeed. While the hate of imperialist reign exists, so does a desire to maintain the current employment derived from such forced occupation. I believe the local people would lose an immense amount of jobs, not to mention free protection.
There is no strategic balance on Okinawa - I think your question is "Would the US pulling out of Okinawa destabilise the strategic balance in the region" The answer of course is "no". But pulling out of Japan would. The real issue is, having accepted as most in Japan do that Okinawa does bear too much of the burden of housing the US forces here, where do they relocate in Japan. Kyushu most probably - with its large land area, huge population, healthy economy centred on Fukuoka, excellent infrastructure and closeness to most of Asia. The real problem here is that the Japanese establishment lacks the political will to alienate another area - so why not continue to discriminate against Okinawa as "mainland" Japan has done since even before WWII.
The US already has 37,000 troops on the Korean peninsula, which could triple in size in 48-72 hours easily. Japan has a stable defence force that could be quickly augmented should it be required. As the Cold War falls further into history, Okinawa's strategic importance also begins to wane. This island will always be important, but maintaining it at the expense of alienating our Japanese hosts makes no sense at all. We've already worn out our welcome. Let's not make it worse.
From a strategic standpoint, no. From a moral standpoint, perhaps. If we can't train our troops to be respectful of the locals, they shouldn't be there. We need to find another solution. We are not being hard enough on our own troops in training, or in making clear that this kind of thing cannot happen.
Strategically, the US cannot 'pull out' of Okinawa, as it is a vital staging post to reinforce South Korea and Taiwan should these contentious areas escalate into anything beyond their current war of words with North Korea and China.
Robert del Valle, USA
No, the US should never leave Okinawa for those minor incidents. Japanese government should know that for US forces to stay in the
region has mutual benefits for both countries. Since WWII, Japan has enjoyed free protection of US against the threat of Soviet Union,
China and North Korea. Today, Japan is one of the richest countries due to its partnership with the US to provide the stability in the region.
American troops should remain in Okinawa but there should be a curfew and places that are off limits.
John Atkins, England
06 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa rape suspect under arrest
06 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa: No easy solution
06 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa: Island of resentment
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