Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki delivered a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on September 18. In doing so, he has caused considerable controversy and concern. His words may invite unwarranted intervention by China and other foreign powers.
The following are key points Tamaki made in his speech.
- Bring the world's attention to the situation in Okinawa. He believes the concentration of US military bases there threatens peace and equal participation in decision-making.
- He fears that the buildup of military power will increase tensions in Japan's neighboring regions, which is incompatible with the desire of Okinawans for peace.
In the first place, diplomacy and national security are "matters under the exclusive control of the national government." Therefore, Tamaki's demand for "equal participation in decision-making" lacks any basis.
Furthermore, he has argued that the United States' bases and greater defense efforts on Japan's part are increasing tensions in the region and threatening peace. But he seems to be parroting China's own assertions.
"Any action that could lead to unjustified intervention by a third country cannot be said to represent the will of the people of the prefecture."
Sato was exactly right. Tamaki's words and actions risk becoming a source of conflict rather than paving the way for peace.
Tamaki's Beijing Visit
In the July 30 edition of The Sankei Shimbun, editorial writer Hiroshi Kawase introduced Chinese media reports on Tamaki's visit to the "Cemetery of the Ryukyu Kingdom" during his trip to China that same month. The cemetery is located in the suburbs of Beijing.
According to Kawase, the Chinese media clearly reported that the cemetery is home to the graves of the Kumemura Shizoku, including diplomat Rin Seiko. Kumemura Shizoku was a community of ethnic-Chinese scholars of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The group sought help from the Qing Empire to prevent Japan from annexing the Ryukyus. Having failed in their mission, they committed suicide.
Chinese Media Reaction
Furthermore, The Beijing News, a popular Beijing newspaper, published a lengthy commentary in conjunction with Tamaki's visit to the graves. It asserted that the Ryukyu Kingdom had long been a tributary state of the Chinese empire. The newspaper further claimed that Japan "forcibly annexed" it, arguing that the issue of Okinawa's ownership was not yet resolved.
Also, the magazine Guojia Renwen Lishi (State Humanities and History) took up the issue of US bases in Okinawa in a special issue. The magazine is owned by The People's Daily.
The author opined, "The Ryukyuan people are greatly disappointed with and antagonized by the Japanese government's response. Their demands for independence are growing stronger."
Concerning these developments, the journalist Satoru Nakamura wrote the following in the September edition of the monthly Ashita e no Sentaku (Choices for Tomorrow), published by the Japanese think tank Japan Policy Institute.
"Regarding Governor Tamaki's visit to the Ryukyuan cemetery, the Chinese side has portrayed Tamaki as a man who has 'carried on the aspirations of Rin Seiko, who requested the military intervention of the Qing Dynasty, by coming to us asking to be liberated from Japan.'"
Nakamura goes on to surmise that in the event of a Taiwan contingency, Tamaki's behavior would provide China with a pretext to meddle in Okinawa. China could do this through action (by dispatching military forces) or by verbal means (intimidation).
Xi Jinping's Remarks
The People's Daily also carried a highly significant front-page article in its June 4 edition. The newspaper is an official organ of the Chinese Communist Party.
Out of the blue, it suddenly decided to report remarks by President Xi Jinping. They were made while he reminisced about his time as an official in Fuzhou City in Fujian Province. He allegedly said, "Fuzhou has the Liuqiu Guan [office for the Ryukyu missions to the Qing empire] and Ryukyuan tombs. So I learned that the roots of our exchanges with the Ryukyus run deep."
It is highly unusual for Xi to mention a specific region or city in Japan. Therefore, his comment could be considered as part of his efforts to divide the mainland from Okinawa.
Instigating Foreign Aggression
Xi's move was in line with a remark made by Sun Jianguo, the former deputy chief of staff of China's People's Liberation Army. At a May meeting with the LDP's Research Commission on Security (chaired by former defense minister Itsunori Onodera), he said, "The Ryukyus were originally part of the Chinese cultural sphere. What would you think if they declared their independence?"
Incidentally, there is a law in Japan's penal code covering the serious crime of instigating foreign aggression. It reads as follows: "A person who conspires with a foreign state and thereby causes the state to exercise armed force against Japan is punished by the death penalty." (Article 81)
There is no provision for a lesser penalty for an individual convicted of this crime.
I sincerely hope that Governor Tamaki will not succumb to Chinese manipulation and end up, even if unwittingly, as the first person to become prosecuted under this law.
- EDITORIAL | Denny Tamaki is Not Above Japan’s Constitution, Supreme Court
- Masako Ganaha: Okinawa's Rising Voice on the Global Stage
- Denny Tamaki Goes to Geneva, Neglecting the Security of Okinawans and His Duty as Governor
- EDITORIAL | Denny Tamaki No Longer Serves the Interests of Okinawa and Japan
(Read the column in Japanese.)
Author: Rui Abiru
Rui Abiru is an editorial writer and the political news department's editorial staff member of The Sankei Shimbun.