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Japan diaries: Okinawa to hold referendum on US base move on Feb 24


ISHIGAKI/OKINAWA: This southwestern corner of Japan is in the middle of two slow-burning crises, both intimately attached to Japan’s security and territorial pursuits.

Ishigaki island town, answerable for the Senkaku Islands on the East China Sea is within the eye of the hurricane between Japan and China, feeling the warmth as China helps to keep the pressure on Japan by sending ships and aircraft to problem Japan’s ownership of these uninhabited islands. Tokyo and Beijing is also dialling down tensions however right here on the frontline, Japanese officers say Chinese forces are keeping up the pressure on them.

Meanwhile, on February 24, the Okinawa prefecture (province) will cling a referendum on shifting a prominent US forces base at Futemna to a spot to the north of the island. If the central govt in Tokyo is acutely conscious of the importance of the US-Japan alliance as well as the necessity of holding US troops stationed on the south-western corner of the country, the local govt, a Communist birthday party, has different ideas. Officials say the local governor is “taking part in politics” — this interprets to increased rallies to get the United States troops out. That, the central govt officers say, would be turning in a victory to China.

For the document, the central govt is answerable for nationwide security, which makes the referendum puzzling. For Japan, the United States alliance is at the middle of its security and defense policy, and reaffirmed the similar in December when Japan released its latest defence policy guidelines.

Tokyo, alarmed that the referendums would possibly cross in surprising instructions, particularly after Brexit, has insisted on a third NOTA (none of the above) solution to be positioned within the referendum ballot papers.

That was once the only method the mayor of Ishigaki, Yoshitaka Nakayama, even agreed to participate within the forthcoming referendum. Nakayama is worried that local politics would possibly pressure the United States troops away which, he believes, would turn Japan into every other Philippines (which gave up its US base, and misplaced the ability recreation to China).

Ishigaki “owns” and controls the Senkaku islands — they are a collection of five islands which Japan claims full ownership of. Japanese officers allege that after a UN file within the 1970s indicated the world is also oil and mineral wealthy, China all of sudden laid claim to those islands. China’s anger and consequent predatory behaviour on the islands spiked in 2013 when the Japanese govt purchased the islands from their personal owners. China calls these islands the Diaoyu and says Japan “seized” the islands from China, and is chargeable for heightened tensions within the space because Japan changed the established order on these islands.


Ishigaki regards the Senkakus — uninhabited, all of them, a minimum of for many years now — because the “jewels” of the town. But as officers from the town place of job mentioned regretfully, “our fishermen cannot cross close to the islands, even if they are wealthy in fish. They are petrified of the Chinese boats, who incessantly harass them, and will even ram into theirs.” It strains Japanese coast guard features immensely which perform with handiest 13 boats to protect the islands.


Nakayama instructed TOI, “We need to protect our southwestern islands.” The Japanese Coast Guard are getting over 200 new boats from this yr to take care of the Chinese intrusions — that are a mixture of loads of fishing boats accompanied by their maritime law enforcement forces’ vessels. They aggressively patrol the waters close to the Senkakus, while, it's learnt, that the Chinese aircraft incessantly fly and sail uncomfortably on the subject of Japan’s territorial area.


On any given day, the Okinawa skies can reverberate with the sound of fighter jets scrambling to intercept and monitor Chinese, Taiwanese, Russian or Korean aircraft, among whom Chinese are by a long way the most numerous and competitive.


(Disclaimer: The author was once in Japan on a call for participation by the Japanese govt)


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