Sunday, November 06, 2011

Two Michaels Mikes on Futenma

Over at CNN's Global Public Square, two of the Michaels Mikes -- Professor Mike Mochizuki of George Washington University and Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute -- present the most cogent alternative I have yet seen to the Futenma-to-Henoko transfer of U.S. Marines assets (Link).

They do not make the point in their article but the current positioning of U.S. Marines forces on Okinawa, while marginally contributing to regional stability, makes the island a guaranteed magnet for Chinese intermediate range missile forces, likely pinning the Marines down and certainly putting Okinawan civilians at risk. If Chinese expansionism (if that is what the Chinese military build up represents) is to be deterred, then it has to be in a manner that is hard to attack.

Besides, what did the Okinawans/Ryukyuans ever do to end up at the receiving end of all this, aside from living on an archipelago positioned in between China and the Japan main islands?

Then again, that is the question everyone has been asking since, oh, around tail end of the 1970s.

Later - I have it on impeccable authority that Professor Mike Mochizuki is just Mike, not Michael. I suppose a major edit is in order.

Later still - While I am on the subject, Professor Mike Green of CSIS is supposedly in town...and Michael Penn's Shingetsu News has a stunning news report on the Foreign Ministry's program to ship Fukushima agricultural products out as foreign aid (Link).


Jan Moren said...

1970's? Isn't that something they've been asking since the 1500's or so? And I guess the proto-fiefdoms on the island chain before Ryūkyū were none too happy about being political small fry squeezed in among China, Korea and Japan either.

MTC said...

Herr Morén:

Point taken.

Can we agree on 1853 as a starting date of the current phase, the date when Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Naha's harbor?

Anonymous said...

Okinawans welcome and are courting Chinese tourism as are other tourist destinations in Japan and S. Korea. The 1970's is the era when both the US and Japan governments normalized relations with China, which made the already strange US-Japan alliance relationship even stranger. At the same time, economic integration between all three nations is deepening, as is US-China, and S. Korea-China economic integration. The subtleties lie within conflicts between foreign policy shapers in these nations and other sets of tensions.

Anonymous said...

1853 is a better date -- but it should include 1874, when the Meiji imperialists "opened" the Korean peninsula using the same methods that the U.S. used to "open" Japan. The subsequent trade agreement gave the Meiji free rein over the peninsula. And 1879, when the Meiji government forcibly seized Okinawa and Formosa. Colonial legacies in the Asia-Pacific is a historically intimate tapestry between European, US, and Meiji/Imperial Japanese imperialism. But MTC, you are right - 1972 was the year of betrayal for Okinawans who thought "reversion" meant that US bases ostensibly meant for the invasion of Japan would finally close down.

Thanks for the latest from Mike Mochizuki, who is an excellent analyst.

Jan Moren said...

Whichever point is fine; just wanted to point out that being squeezed between powers is a regrettably normal state of affairs for any place like that.

What makes the current situation, since the 1970's as you say, doubly regrettable is of course that former Ryūkyū is now part of one of those powers and should be safe from such bullying. But too many Japanese apparently see their relationship with another external power as more important than their own supposed countrymen. Were I Okinawan I'd be plenty upset over that, regardless of the specific base issue.

MTC said...

Herr Morén:

Putting aside our slight tiff over chronology, what do you think of the Two Mikes' solution? I find it very clever though it does not clearly provide a solution for the Marine Corps' demands for a jungle training area.

Jan Moren said...

I have absolutely no basis for evaluating any military or political-strategic implications of any plan. I know nothing of military matters beyond what I learned as a draftee in the Swedish army (viz. "conscription sucks, but blowing things up is kind of fun"). I regularly lost at chess to my eight years younger brother as a child.

But what I'd worry about with any plan that leaves a substantial marine presence on Okinawa is that it doesn't really seem to solve anything locally. You still have large numbers of troops and military air activity (with unsafe aircraft) right over densely populated areas, one accident away from a serious (perhaps crippling) civilian backlash.

And there is still not even a token shift of burden from Okinawa to the mainland, something I suspect is absolutely necessary for Okinawan acceptance no matter what the other components are of the plan.

I think it is symptomatic that even as they acknowledge local opposition as one of the main stumbling blocks they never even begin to address it or discuss the effect of their plan on it.