ad info

 > magazine
 web features
 magazine archive
 customer service
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia

Other News
TIME Europe
Asiaweek Services
Contact Asiaweek
About Asiaweek
Media Kit
Get up to 3 months of Asiaweek free when you subscribe online!


Kazuhiro Nogi.

In the Shadow of Giants
Okinawans wish for a little peace and quiet

Talking the Talk: A dapper Putin makes Russia a player in Asia again at an otherwise lackluster G8 meeting

On the western side of Nago in Okinawa, the leaders of the G8 nations surveyed the world from the newly built $27-million convention center. To the city's east, by a pre-fabricated hut erected near the shore, Kinjyo Yuji looks out over the blue ocean stretching to the horizon. The scene is peaceful now, but the 65-year-old mango farmer is afraid that in a few years it will be filled with the warlike clamor of a U.S. military helicopter base. "Some fishermen in this area have been offered 100 million yen [$920,000] as compensation for losing their jobs," Kinjyo says. "But there are things that money cannot buy."

While the G8 grappled with the emerging problems of globalization, what preoccupied Kinjyo and many other Okinawans during the summit was a legacy of the past — the U.S. military bases that dominate the islands. Nago, already home to one camp, has been earmarked for a heliport that Tokyo and Washington promised to remove from Futenma in the crowded center of the main island of Okinawa. Kinjyo and many townspeople set up the "protest hut" near the proposed site. But not everyone supports them, as the planned base is backed not only by the will of Japan and the U.S. but comes with a huge package of economic incentives — including the holding of the G8 summit in Nago. "We are trapped and divided," Kinjyo says.

Okinawa has always been trapped. It was an independent trading nation until the 17th century when it was annexed by warlords from Japan. It was the site of the last great battle of World War II, in which nearly 240,000 people including some 150,000 civilians — a third of the population — were killed. Americans governed the islands until 1972 and U.S. bases still take up a fifth of the area of the main island. Long-held anti-base feeling boiled over in 1995, after three U.S. servicemen abducted and raped a 12-year-old schoolgirl. Demonstrations up to 85,000 strong gathered in protest, prompting Tokyo and Washington to promise steps to ease the military burden on Okinawa, including moving a Marine air base from Futenma.

Anti-base sentiments are complicated by a feeling of betrayal by Japan. In the Battle of Okinawa, many civilians were killed not by invading American troops but by Japanese soldiers intent on death before surrender. In the years since, resentment built up over how Okinawa, with 1% of Japan's land, houses 75% of U.S. military facilities in the country, feelings aggravated when Tokyo failed to get any other prefecture to accept Futenma's marines. Moreover, much of Japan's economic development passed Okinawa by, leaving it the country's poorest prefecture with the highest rate of joblessness and lowest rate of college attendance.

For the U.S., Okinawa is the pivot of its East Asian military presence. The approximately 26,000 troops stationed there amount to half its strength in Japan and a quarter of that in the region. The islands also will be a key staging area for units coming from the U.S. in the event of conflict. Speaking just before the summit at a memorial commemorating the dead of the Battle of Okinawa, President Bill Clinton said the islands play a vital role not just for the U.S. alliance with Japan but for security throughout the region. "Asia is largely at peace today because our alliance gives people throughout this region confidence that the peace will be defended and preserved," he said. But Clinton acknowledged the burden Okinawans shoulder, and promised to "reduce our footprint" on the islands.

So Okinawa plays its unwanted role. The islands and their people are still groping for where they fit between the U.S. and Japan. Anti-base feelings have cooled since 1995 — after all they have been a fact of life for so long — but have not faded under the constant reminder of screaming jets flying overhead. Military-related crimes still cause outrage. Earlier this year, a drunken marine allegedly snuck into a house and molested a 14-year-old girl while she was sleeping. That and the opportunity offered by the G8 summit prompted 27,000 protesters to form a human chain around Kadena Air Base on July 20. With the leaders' meeting yielding few surprises, the bases issue grabbed much of the media's attention. Farmer Kinjyo Yuji says he wished for a successful summit, but adds: "I would like the world to have ears to listen to our voice, too." In the G8's shadow, he got his wish — for a while.

Write to Asiaweek at

This edition's table of contents | Home


Quick Scroll: More stories from Asiaweek, TIME and CNN


U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?


COVER: Anatomy of a Prize
From an environmentalist in China to a mayor in the Philippines, Asiaweek presents the five extraordinary winners of the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Awards
Public Service: Liang Congjie, China
Community Leadership: Aruna Roy, India
Media and the Arts: Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, Indonesia
International Understanding: Jockin Arputham, India
Government Service: Jesse M. Robredo, Philippines

Foreign Policy: Putin's diplomatic forays bode well for Asia

IT: Bringing more information technology to the great unwired

Letters & Comment: Against Vietnam's outspoken monk

DIPLOMACY: What came out — and didn't come out — of the G8 summit in Okinawa
Discontent: Resentment boils over in Naha over U.S. bases
ASEAN: The secretary-general talks about the group's bad rap

THAILAND: Samak defeats Thaksin's war chest to clinch Bangkok

CAMBODIA: The dilemma over the Khmer Rouge tribunal

INDONESIA: Wahid vs. parliament in the run-up to the MPR session
Megawati: Tired of following orders?

Newsmakers: Estrada's state of the nation address

Viewpoint: A growing sense of regionalism from Northeast Asia

Arc of Conflict: Caught up in Asia's war zones, how can ordinary people make a difference in the search for peace?
Federalism: It's been tried, but a new model is needed
Maluku: An orphan tells of his fear
Sri Lanka: Love and race defy battle lines
Mindanao: A scholar - peacemaker refuses to wilt
Aceh: Losing hope and waiting to die

Delayed Takeoff: The decision to put off the privatization of Thai Airways reflects poorly on the nation's economy
India: New Delhi is finally looking to privatize the skies

Investing: The rally in China stocks may be real

Business Buzz: Getting Ready for WTO Takeoff

Phones: Why China's local handset makers get no respect

Biochips: Computer scientists borrow from mother nature

Cutting Edge: Apple's New Crop

This week's news round-up by country

The Bottom Line: Asiaweek's ranking of world economies

Back to the top   © 2000 Asiaweek. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.