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EDITORIAL | Why is Okinawa Governor Tamaki Against Protecting His Prefecture and Its People?

Japan seeks to be defense-ready in case attacked by another country. It's bizarre for Governor Tamaki to say this preparedness causes Okinawa residents anxiety.



Prime Minister Fumio Kishida lays a wreath and bows in remembrance at a memorial service for all the war dead in Okinawa on the afternoon of June 23, 2023. He is in Itoman City, Okinawa Prefecture. (Sankei by Yuta Yasumoto)

Friday, June 23 marked the 78th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Pacific War. 

Okinawa Prefecture held a memorial service on that day for all the war dead at the Peace Memorial Park at Mabuni in Itoman City. This is where the Japan Imperial Army made its last stand at the climax of nearly three months of bitter fighting.

A total of more than 200,000 Japanese and Americans died during the fierce ground fighting, with roughly one out of every four residents of the prefecture perishing during the battle. Japanese officers and enlisted men fought tooth and nail, while over 2,500 suicide planes were launched from Kyushu and other locations. 

The sacrifices of the combatants and civilians made possible the peace we enjoy today. Yet, even as we honor all the war dead, we must vow that never again will Okinawa become a battlefield.

Remembering Okinawa memorial day. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers a speech at a memorial service for all those who died in the Battle of Okinawa. June 23, 2023 in Itoman City, Okinawa Prefecture. (© Sankei by Yuta Yasumoto)

Kishida's Pledge

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was one of the attendees at the annual Irei no Hi ceremony to commemorate the fallen. He offered his condolences to the dead and noted that Japan now finds itself in the harshest security environment since the end of that war.

Kishida pledged, "We will work tirelessly to create a world in which everyone everywhere can live in peace and contentment."

Concerning the sensitive issue of the presence of United States military bases in Okinawa, he promised, "We will do everything we can to reduce the burden on the prefecture."

In remembrance: Okinawa memorial day. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (right) is guided by Governor Denny Tamaki as he visits the National Okinawa War Dead Cemetery. June 23, 2023, in Itoman City, Okinawa Prefecture. (© Sankei by Yuta Yasumoto)

Okinawa Governor's Misplaced Declarations

In contrast, Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki issued what he called a peace declaration. He stated that he would "continue to demand" the scrapping of the plan for relocating the US military's Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City to Henoko in Nago City, among other measures.

On defense issues, Tamaki criticized the national government's efforts to strengthen Japan's defense posture for the Nansei Shoto that includes Okinawa. That group of islands runs from Kyushu to Taiwan. Additionally, he took issue with the three security documents approved by the Cabinet in December 2022. 

Tamaki charged, "These things are creating a great deal of anxiety among the people of the prefecture."

Governor Tamaki should be working to defend the residents of his prefecture. It is unfortunate that he instead voiced such sorely mistaken views at the memorial ceremony. 


The Futenma Air Station is surrounded by an urban area. Relocation is urgently needed to protect the lives of the people living in the vicinity. Opposition to the Henoko relocation from Tamaki and the prefectural government is preventing the danger from being removed.

Senkaku Islands
A Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel navigates alongside a Chinese Coast Guard ship to prevent it from approaching a research vessel. January 30, off the Senkaku Islands in Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture. January 2023. (©Sankei by Hiroshi Kawase)

Beware China's Intentions

The three security documents in question are designed to fundamentally strengthen Japan's defense capabilities. They aim for defense readiness should another country seek to attack Japan. Naturally, that also includes Okinawa. It is bizarre to declare that preparedness for the safety of Okinawa residents causes them anxiety.

Among the things we need to be wary of is China taking aim at Okinawa. The June 4 edition of The People's Daily, the official organ of the Chinese Communist Party, reported Xi Jinping's discussion about the Senkaku Islands (Ishigaki City, Okinawa). It said President Xi called for deepening exchanges between "Ryukyu" and China. 

Governor Tamaki should gain an unblinkered understanding of the threats posed by China and North Korea. Moreover, he should display a willingness to cooperate with the government and the Self-Defense Force. Because that's what it takes to be ready to protect the people of his prefecture. 

Moreover, that is what constitutes real deterrence to keep the peace.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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