The impact of RIMPAC on Okinawa and Japan

August 2, 2022 Kozue Akibayashi and Suzuyo Takazato

In its Article 9, the Japanese constitution promulgated in 1946 under the U.S. post-war occupation renounces war as a means of resolving international disputes and proscribes maintaining land, sea and air forces. This article is widely supported by the Japanese people. To those in the countries and areas in Asia that Japan invaded and colonized during the Asia-Pacific War, Article 9 is a pledge by the Japanese people not to repeat colonial and military violence.

Yet, in the early period of the Cold War, the U.S. occupation changed its course from disarming Japan to turning it into a bulwark against the communist bloc. Around the time of the Korean War, Japan started to re-arm itself, first with the National Police Reserve, which soon became the Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF). Despite the persistent argument by peace activists that the JSDF is a breach of Article 9, the Japanese government has won public support for the JSDF through decades of promoting the forces as the disaster rescue organization and an insistence on an “exclusively defense-oriented-policy.” The JSDF have now grown to be one of the world’s largest militaries.

In addition to this fundamental contradiction concerning the possession of an armed force, the Japanese constitution encounters a profound problem because Article 9 was never implemented on Okinawa, the southernmost archipelago of the country that was directly occupied by the U.S. military from 1945 to 1972. Even after Okinawa’s reversion to the Japanese administration, the U.S. military continued to be stationed in Okinawa, which consists of only 0.6% of the entire land mass of Japan yet hosts about 70% of the U.S. military facilities in Japan. These Okinawan facilities have catered to the various needs of the U.S. military in waging wars in Asia and beyond. Meanwhile, for more than seven decades, the U.S. military has violated the basic human rights, safety, and security of the people of Okinawa with virtual impunity. The U.S.-Japan military alliance has caused tremendous negative impacts on the people of the host community, including contamination of the soil and water by toxic materialsunbearable noise caused by military training, and sexual violence committed by the troops and other personnel, to name a few.

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