American Military Bases in Okinawa : Protests and Policy Change

KAWATO Yuko (University of Washington) donnera une conférence dans le cadre du séminaire du Centre Japon.

Mercredi 5 mai  2010 de 15h à 17h
Salle 2 EHESS, 105 bd Raspail 750016 Paris


People in Okinawa with grievances about the American military presence and base policies have organized protests to influence policy decisions. If protests influence base policy, how do they do so and with what consequences? When they fail to influence policy, what explains the failure? I answer these questions by examining three postwar protests in Okinawa.

First, I examine the American response to local protests in the 1950s. The United States administered Okinawa after World War II and implemented a land policy that facilitated the establishment of military bases. Local residents opposed the land policy, which included compensation that they believed was grossly inadequate, and forcible land expropriation if they refused to sign leases. The second case is from between the early 1960s and the Okinawan reversion to Japan in 1972. Okinawan protesters demanded a reversion without American military bases. The third case discusses Okinawan protests in the mid-1990s, which demanded a revision of the Status of Forces Agreement and a reduction of bases. In each of these protests, I analyze the impact of protesters’ normative arguments on state decisions about base policy. Movement organizers used combinations of five norms that they believed the American military presence and activities violated. First, protesters emphasized anti-war, anti-militarism and anti-nuclear norms. Second, they used human rights norms both to oppose land expropriation without landowners’ consent (which they considered a violation of property rights) and to protect “women’s human rights” against American sexual crimes. Third, protesters emphasized environmental norms to draw attention to the soil, water, and noise pollution that military activities generated. Fourth, protesters complained that the United States curtailed Japanese sovereignty when it limited the host state’s jurisdiction over American criminal suspects. Fifth, norms regarding local autonomy and democracy were also common, as protesters sought greater independence from base economy and advocated an increased participation in the formation of base policy. In the three cases, these arguments mobilized the public into large protests. Although protesters’ arguments failed to persuade policy-makers, large protests pressured them to change some aspects of base policy. The policy outcomes, which offered some concessions on base policy and increased economic compensation to local communities, reflected policy-makers’ interest in diffusing local protests while maintaining American military effectiveness. In addition to these cases, I will offer a preliminary analysis of the latest protests in Okinawa over the relocation of Futenma Air Base.