TOKYO ( Associated Press) – Japan should focus more on peaceful diplomacy with China rather than military resistance, as tensions rise around Chinese-claimed Taiwan, the governor of the nearby southern Japanese island of Okinawa said Friday. He also urged that Okinawa be less burdened with hosting the majority of American troops in Japan.
“We are strongly concerned,” Okinawa Government Denny Tamaki said of discussions in parliament about the possibility of a security emergency involving Taiwan, and concerns that Okinawa, 600 kilometers (370 miles) away, could become embroiled in it.
Tamaki was speaking online from the prefectural capital of Naha ahead of the 50th anniversary of Okinawa’s return to Japan on May 15, 1972, 20 years after Japan gained independence from most of the US occupation after World War II.
With its heavy US military presence in Okinawa, there is concern over rising tensions as a result of China’s increasingly assertive military actions in the region and its rivalry with the United States. There is also concern about the Russian invasion of Ukraine Beijing might be excited.
China claims to independently govern Taiwan as its own territory, and controlling the island is a major component of Beijing’s political and military thinking. In October, Chinese leader Xi Jinping reiterated that “the reunification of the nation must be felt, and will certainly be felt.”
In a warning Beijing has issued to Taiwan’s independence advocates and their foreign allies, China is threatening to conduct military exercises and blow up fighter jets near Taiwan’s airspace, including on February 24, the day Russia attacked Ukraine. started the attack.
“Any escalation of problems on the Taiwan Strait and the contingency of being the target of an attack on Okinawa should never have been or should be allowed to happen,” Tamaki said.
Ongoing tensions have rekindled fears among Okinawans that they may be re-sacrifice by mainland Japan, as in the Battle of Okinawa, which killed some 200,000 people at the end of World War II. of whom half were civilians.
Japan sees China’s military escalation as a regional threat and is moving its troops, deploying missile defense systems and other facilities, and defending southwestern islands, including Okinawa and its outlying islands, and Increasing joint exercises with the US military and other regional partners.
On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that Japan is “taking advantage of diplomatic activities to make an issue of China, escalate regional tensions and propagate the so-called China threat,” and that Tokyo is “for its own sake”. looking for excuses” military expansion. ,
The US has expressed consistent support for ensuring that Taiwan can defend itself, and Chinese military action against the island in the short to medium term is generally considered a remote possibility.
Noting that China is Japan’s largest trading partner and Japan is China’s second largest, Tamaki said their close economic ties are inevitable.
“I call on the Japanese government to always maintain calm and peaceful diplomacy and dialogue to improve its relationship with China, while working to de-escalate US-China tensions.,” They said.
Okinawa at the time of his repatriation asked Japan to make it a peaceful island free of military bases. Today, it still hosts about 50,000 US troops and the majority of their military facilities in Japan, and Tamaki said the burden should be shared by all of Japan.
Because of the US bases, Okinawa faces noise, pollution, plane crashes and crime related to US troops on a daily basis, Tamaki said.
“That enormous US base burden still remains unresolved even 50 years after repatriation,” he said. “Okinawa’s burden of US military bases is a major diplomatic and security issue that concerns all Japanese people.”
The biggest sticking point between Okinawa and Tokyo is the central government’s insistence that Futenama Air Station, a US Marine base in a crowded neighborhood, be relocated within Okinawa, rather than as it was demanded by many Okinawa residents. .
Development projects over the past five decades have helped Okinawa’s economy, while Okinawan’s median income is the lowest of Japan’s 47 prefectures, Tamaki said.
Tamaki said that if the land taken by the US military is returned to the prefecture for other uses, it would produce three times more income for Okinawa.