I will join Paul Sracic in a December 18 discussion entitled “Will the US Defend the Senkakus ?” Few things have simple yes or no answers, as I was reminded on this very issue, and further thinking has not made it any easier to reach an unequivocal conclusion. I will do my best to come up with useful thoughts by the occasion, but in the meantime, let me pose a related question: Namely, what if China rendered the very question moot by making the residents of Okinawa an offer they couldn’t refuse?
Independence should not be that novel of an idea to the Okinawans in an era when separatist movements all over the world have been gaining currency. Remember that Okinawa was once an independent kingdom named Ryukyu that first paid tribute to China and later also to the Satsuma, a Japanese han, until it was subjugated and unceremoniously subsumed into the modern nation state of Japan as Okinawa Prefecture. It was placed under US military rule in 1945, but reverted to Japan in 1972 in line with the wishes of the majority of the Okinawa people at the time. One wonders, though, what the Okinawans would have wanted if they’d known that most of the land expropriated during the occupation for military purposes, some of it located in or near densely populated urban areas, would remain in US hands even after reversion. Today, as Okinawa stays on course to be the only place Japan where the Social Democrats, who have a long history of opposing the US military presence in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan that was only interrupted briefly by their short-term benefit/long-term disaster bid for power, win a single-seat district in tomorrow’s (Dec. 14) lower house election, I have to wonder: What if China made an offer to a hypothetical independent Okinawa (or Ryukyu, it’s their choice) consisting of the following conditions?
1) China recognizes the Senkaku Islands as Okinawa territory, as a gift in celebration of the recovery of independence by Okinawa.
2) China similarly recognizes Okinawa’s EEZ up to the median line between the territories of the two states including the Senkaku Islands.
3) China drops all tariffs on Okinawa products while allowing Okinawa to impose the same tariffs as Japan does on Chinese products.
4) China replaces all net transfers from the Japanese government to Okinawa Prefecture and its municipalities in perpetuity and protected against inflation.
5) China promises not to use arms against Okinawa under any circumstances.
6) Okinawa may not allow any foreign military (including Japan’s) access to any part of its territory at any time except as part of emergency relief efforts.
A note of caution: The third and fourth conditions, as affordable as they look for China now, could be rescinded at a future time. And these conditions most likely require refining, if not outright changes. Still, to me, the proposal seems to be as close to an offer that the Okinawans cannot refuse and is easily affordable for China. The Japanese government is unlikely to let Okinawa go, but that does not make the offer any less more worth making.