Using force against protestors would threaten a future Japanese government’s survival and embarrass Washington.
Rather than resist Okinawan demands, the U.S. should voluntarily reduce its military presence on the island. Jeffrey Hornung of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies observed: “Given how much problems this is causing in Okinawa, it’s finally time to rethink things.”
But American military facilities are a symptom, not a cause. The bases exist to support the defense of Japan. The MEF also is available for deployment elsewhere, most obviously in a war on the Korean Peninsula.
It is unreasonable to expect Washington to defend Japan without bases in Japan. But the U.S. should end its security guarantee and then remove, rather than relocate, its military facilities in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan. Indeed, instead of augmenting its forces elsewhere in East Asia, such as in Australia, Washington should withdraw and demobilize troops and close bases throughout the region. World War II ended 67 years ago. America no longer need guarantee the security of its many prosperous and capable allies.
Japan should endorse this step as the only way to escape its status as an American protectorate. Tokyo has essentially relinquished control over its own territory to comply with U.S. demands. Although the Obama administration frustrated the 2009 DPJ campaign pledge to create a more equal security partnership, Japanese citizens will inevitably raise more questions about the bilateral relationship as they debate security issues.
Prof. Kenneth B. Pyle of the University of Washington argued that “the degree of U.S. domination in the relationship has been so extreme that a recalibration of the alliance was bound to happen, but also because autonomy and self-mastery have always been fundamental goals of modern Japan.” Even as Prime Minister Hatoyama was beaten by Washington he looked to the future, observing: “Someday, the time will come when Japan’s peace will have to be ensured by the Japanese people themselves.”
That many Japanese still look to America for their defense is hardly surprising. Relying on a friendly superpower for protection frees domestic resources for other purposes. The alliance also eases Tokyo’s diplomatic burden, which otherwise would include reassuring neighbors still obsessed with Imperial Japan’s military depredations.