The Okinawan newspaper, Ryukyu Shimpo, reported today on the often over-looked difference between Okinawa and the rest of Japan. While many Japanese are anti-military as a result of their loss and suffering in the Pacific War, the people of Okinawa with their own history and national identity were on the front facing the invading Allied forces as the Imperial Japanese Army went into retreat, telling those civilians left behind to commit suicide rather than face the ‘barbaric’ US forces. As the last part of Japan to be handed back to Japanese control, and with the heavy burden of being the home to about 25,000 US servicemen, all these issues have congealed into a prominent anti-military movement attached to popular NIMBY-like anti-base movements which exist not only against US forces there, but also Japan’s own Self-Defense Forces.

“Civilian Ports are not to be Used for Military Affairs” – Protests against Aegis cruiser visit to Naha Port

JDS Choukai (DDG-176) was involved in disaster relief efforts following the recent Tohoku Earthquake

JDS Choukai (DDG-176) was involved in disaster relief efforts following the recent Tohoku Earthquake (Source: Wikimedia)

After the Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis escort vessel, CHOUKAI, and submarine, WAKASHIO, entered Naha Shinko Terminal on June 11th, the Okinawa Peace Movement Center (chaired by Shikou Sakiyama) held a protest assembly on June 12th in front of the gate of Naha Port’s International Container Terminal. Around 250 people participated, chanting, “Civilian ports are not to be used for military affairs!”

The CHOUKAI is attached to the 2nd Escort Flotilla based in Sasebo, Nagasaki, and the WAKASHIO is part of the 2nd Submarine Flotilla based in Yokosuka, Kanagawa. According to the Okinawa Provincial Cooperation Office, the ships were to dock at the port in order to cultivate a better understanding of the MSDF as part of the fleet’s public relations efforts. It is the first time for either enter Naha Shinko Terminal, and on June 13th, they set sail once more.

At the assembly, Sakiyama complained, “The Ministry of Defense is obviously trying to strength the military’s presence.” Morio Oshiro, Committee Chairman of the Okinawa Local Ports Headquarters criticized, “Is the shared use of civilian ports by military and civilians not the first step towards ports exclusively for the military?”

After the assembly, the participants called out slogans such as “SDF go home!” as they marched around the port. One participant, Yoshiaki Uehara (46) from Naha angrily commented: “The people working at the port should not allow military warships to enter a civilian trading port. It is a threat to the livelihood of people living in Okinawa prefecture.”

On the same day, at around 5 p.m., Defense Minister Toshimi Kitawa inspected the CHOUKAI.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch