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06NAHA103 2006-04-26 01:20:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Naha
Cable title:  

OKINAWAN EXCEPTIONALISM: THE CHINA THREAT OR LACK THEREOF

Tags:   MARR PINS JA CH TW 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 08 NAHA 000103 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 4/26/2031
TAGS: MARR PINS JA CH TW
SUBJECT: OKINAWAN EXCEPTIONALISM: THE CHINA THREAT OR LACK THEREOF

REF: A. A. TOKYO 1301

B. B. TOKYO 1153

C. C. EMBASSY TOKYO TRANSLATION OF FEBRUARY 24 SANKEI SHIMBUN ARTICLE.

D. D. FUKUOKA 17

E. E. NAGOYA 11

F. F. TOKYO 822

NAHA 00000103 001.2 OF 008


CLASSIFIED BY: Thomas G. Reich, Consul General, Consulate
General Naha, State.
REASON: 1.4 (d)



1. (C) Summary: Despite China's rapidly expanding economic
and military activities, including in waters near Okinawa,
Okinawans claim they do not share America's or Japan's sense of
threat from China. While many mainland Japanese officials and
influentials say they recognize China as a potential threat to
regional security and stability, even most conservative
Okinawans do not believe a Chinese threat to Japan (or
elsewhere) necessarily means a threat to Okinawa. Many
Okinawans identify with China culturally and believe China sees
them as a separate people from the Japanese. Some also say
Okinawa, over the centuries, has received better treatment from
China than from Japan or the United States. These attitudes
combine to produce an Okinawan perspective that is markedly
different from that of mainland Japan, and which is a factor in
local attitudes toward U.S. military bases in Okinawa. End
summary.



--------------------------


China Rising


--------------------------





2. (SBU) In recent years, China's economic expansion and growing
military capabilities have attracted a great deal of attention
in Japan, although somewhat less in Okinawa. The two leading
Okinawan newspapers generally appear reluctant to feature
articles about the potential negative impacts on regional
security associated with China's rise, mostly because the
newspapers fear this line of thought will serve as an implicit
justification for the continued existence of U.S. military bases
on the island.



3. (SBU) Nevertheless, Okinawans who make the effort to read
mainland Japanese newspapers can find ample coverage of Japan's
concerns. Some widely reported Chinese activities have a very
direct connection to Okinawa. For example, Japan, China and
Taiwan have competing claims to an island chain 250 miles west
of Okinawa, known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
The governments of Japan and China have disputed the islands'
sovereignty for years and more recently have both made moves to
develop undersea resources near them (see, e.g., refs. A, B).
The media have reported China has erected drilling platforms in
the disputed territory.



4. (SBU) China has also stepped up military air and sea
activities in the area, prompting Japanese Self Defense Forces
to respond. According to national broadcaster NHK, Japan Air
Self Defense Forces scrambled to intercept Chinese military
aircraft above or near the East China Sea 30 times between April
and September 2005, more than twice as often as they did in all
of 2004. Chinese maritime activity also occasionally makes the
news. The November 2004 Chinese submarine incursion into
Japanese waters within Okinawa Prefecture drew a rare Chinese
apology for a ""technical error."" The mainland Japanese media
have suggested this was not the only Chinese submarine intrusion
near Okinawa.



--------------------------



--------------------------




--------------------------


Different Perspectives of ""Mainland"" Japanese and Okinawans


--------------------------



--------------------------




--------------------------





5. (C) In mainland Japan, concern over China's military buildup
is frequently aired. For example, in January the Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP) General Affairs Chairman Akio Kuma noted
that if China chose to swallow up Taiwan, it would be easy
enough for it to swallow up Okinawa, too, in the absence of U.S.
forces. In February the opposition Democratic Party of Japan
(DPJ) issued a statement that it was ""inevitable that China's
military buildup and its moves to line up marine interests from
the viewpoint of the Japanese people are recognized as an actual
threat to Japan"" (ref. C).



6. (U) Typical of many Japanese academics' views was a February
9 article by (Japan's) National Defense University Professor
Tomohide Murai stating that the most efficient way for the
United States to project power throughout the world was to link
with regional partners, and that Japan, by its very location,
was a key partner in the Pacific. Murai noted the Chinese
recognized the strategic importance of Okinawa, calling it (as
does the United States) the ""keystone of the Pacific.""



7. (SBU) In Okinawa, however, many - probably most -residents
have a substantially different assessment of China. In general,
Okinawans perceive little potential threat from China; many
people here note China and the Ryukyu Kingdom had peaceful
relations for centuries prior to the 19th Century Meiji
Restoration in Japan. To be sure, there are Okinawans who are
as concerned about China's destabilizing possibilities as are
many mainlanders, but this is not the prevailing view on the
island.



8. (C) As vignettes of Okinawa's relaxed attitude toward China,
we note the following conversations. During a September 2005
office call, reformist Ginowan City Mayor Yoichi Iha told us he
believed China posed no threat to Okinawa. In October 2005 Kin
Town Mayor Gibu underscored his support for the U.S.-Japan
alliance but complained the GOJ had never explained what threat,
exactly, the alliance deterred. In March, former Socialist
Party Diet Member and candidate for Okinawa City mayor Mitsuko
Tomon made the same complaint.



9. (C) We asked why a look at a map of the region surrounding
Okinawa and current stories regarding China's expansion didn't
provide Okinawans enough information for them to judge for
themselves. Tomon replied the GOJ and USG were like the boy who
cried wolf, pointing to China and claiming that something awful
might happen, but nothing ever did. Okinawans were undisturbed,
Tomon claimed, by Chinese incursions. Chinese fishing boats
crossing the sea boundary did not affect Okinawan fisheries as
Okinawans worked only in its inner seas. In a separate
conversation, he Okinawan Federation of Fisheries echoed Tomon's
claim, but added that their members avoided the Senkakus because
they were ""politically difficult."" The Chinese might be
drilling near the Senkakus, and claim the Senkakus for
themselves, Tomon noted, but these were essentially peaceful
activities for the GOJ to settle. Because of Okinawa's history
as the Ryukyu Kingdom, it had a very different view of China
than did the Japanese mainland. Historically speaking, Tomon
commented, Japan and the United States had been more harmful to
Okinawa than China had ever been.



--------------------------


A Ryukyuan History Primer


--------------------------





10. (U) By entering into close trading relationships with both
China and Japan in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Ryukyu
Kingdom enjoyed a lengthy period of prosperity in the years
before 1609. As George Kerr notes in his book Okinawa: The
History of an Island People, ""the islands were independent.
They were in constant communication and at peace with
neighboring states. Okinawans were in the happy position of
freedom to adopt what they wanted, and to remain indifferent -
or at best mildly curious - about foreign artifacts and
institutions for which they felt no pressing need. China loomed
as the neighbor of unquestioned superiority, and Okinawans were
in close and constant communication with Japan, but were
overwhelmed by neither."" Many Okinawans today regard this
period as the Golden Age of their history, and view it as a
basis for their belief that China sees Okinawa a place entirely
separate from Japan.



11. (U) The Golden Age ended in 1609, when the southernmost clan
in mainland Japan (the Satsumas of southern Kyushu) sent an army
to assert control over Okinawa and extracted increasingly
burdensome tributes. The Satsumas then took over the lucrative
trade with China through Okinawa, continuing it despite the
Tokugawa Shogunate's closed country (sakoku) policy.



12. (U) After Commodore Perry and his black ships helped trigger
the Meiji Restoration, Japan began vigorously securing and
expanding its borders. In 1872 Japan formally abolished the
Ryukyu Kingdom and annexed Okinawa, over Chinese protests.
Okinawa pleaded with China and the United States to intervene.
Four-party discussions dragged on for decades until the
Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, which settled the issue in Japan's
favor as far as the western powers were concerned.



13. (U) Japan instituted a top-down assimilation program for
Okinawa that gained momentum when met by a bottom-up
assimilation movement following Japan's success in the
Sino-Japanese War. Practical-minded Okinawans became convinced
they would benefit from closer identification with Japan. Early
editorials of the Ryukyu Shimpo, dating as far back as 1893,
asserted that Okinawa could develop only by fully assimilating
with Japan.



14. (U) Over the following 50 years, many Okinawans saw military
service, including during the battle for Okinawa, as a chance to
prove they were true Japanese. However, the battle, which
killed perhaps a third of the Okinawan population, came as a
shock to most of the survivors, who experienced or heard stories
of atrocities against Okinawans by Japanese troops. In the
years after the war, a home-grown historical interpretation of
the battle took solid root in Okinawa, which holds that Tokyo
had always intended to sacrifice Okinawa in a battle designed to
consume as many U.S. forces as possible, to stall and weaken an
eventual attack on the mainland.



15. (U) The United States directly governed Okinawa through a
military high commissioner from 1945 to 1972, 20 years longer
than the rest of Japan. During this period, U.S. forces
forcibly seized land for bases. By the early 1960s, a movement
advocating reversion to Japan began among Okinawans, leading to
large-scale demonstrations against the U.S. administration in
the late 1960s and early 1970s. Okinawa reverted to Japan May
15, 1972.



16. (SBU) The reunion was a victory for all Okinawans (though
many were dismayed at the remaining numbers of U.S. facilities
and forces), and anti-U.S. protests were dramatically reduced
following reversion. With reversion, the GOJ sharply increased
infrastructure development, and the general standard of living
greatly improved. However, in the years since 1972, many
Okinawans have called for lessening the island's economic
dependence on GOJ transfer payments. Okinawa remains the
poorest prefecture in Japan, with the highest unemployment rate
in Japan, and many argue that Okinawa needs to become more
economically independent.



--------------------------



--------------------------




--------------------------


Okinawan Analysis: Split Identity, Affinity with China


--------------------------



--------------------------




--------------------------





17. (SBU) The above history still shapes Okinawans' world views,
including their sense of identity. In December 2005 the
University of the Ryukyus announced the results of a telephone
survey of Okinawans, in which 40% of respondents, when asked how
they identified themselves, said they were Okinawan. A smaller
percentage said they were both Okinawan and Japanese (36%), and
just over one in five identified themselves as Japanese (21%).



18. (SBU) This history also shapes how Okinawans view the GOJ
and actions that are presented in the world press as
provocations to China, most notably visits by the Prime Minister
to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine. While many mainland Japanese are
reportedly uncomfortable with the visits, if push comes to shove
between China and Japan, opinion polls show that most side with
Japan's right to do as it pleases. We believe most Okinawans
side with China. Typical of this attitude is Masaru Yamada,
treasurer of Okinawa City, who recently criticized Koizumi's
visits to Yasukuni Shrine. He told us he doubted China would
ever accept Koizumi's explanations of the visits, any more than
he himself did. Okinawans and Chinese held similar views of the
visits, he explained, because they shared the experience of
having been ""prisoners of war"" of the Japanese.



19. (U) Local newspaper editorials have also pointed to the
Yasukuni visits as unnecessary barriers to bilateral and
regional cooperation that the GOJ could, and should, remove.
Although an exaggeration, a recent Ryukyu Shimpo article
reporting on the study of Okinawan identity concluded with a
warning that GOJ policies, particularly as they related to bases
and transformation, could influence Okinawans' opinions on
whether to remain part of Japan.



20. (SBU) Many Okinawans believe that China sees them
differently, and more warmly, than it sees the rest of Japan.
They point out that Taipei International Airport, when posting
place names in Chinese characters, lists flights to/from
""Ryukyu,"" not Okinawa. A May 2005 Ryukyu Shimpo report claimed
that, because of Okinawa's history, it could become an
intermediary peacefully linking China and Taiwan. By offering
an independent, international contribution, Okinawa could
renounce its title of ""(strategic) keystone of the Pacific"" and
become a ""keystone of goodwill."" A June 2005 Ryukyu Shimpo
opinion piece contrasted the hospitality the Chinese granted
Okinawa Governor Inamine and his party when they visited Beijing
with Beijing's snubbing of PM Koizumi. ""The extreme attention
provided Okinawa, with its deep historical connection to China,
was conspicuous in its contrast. To look at it the other way
around, it was an intense dig at the GOJ,"" commented the Shimpo.



21. (SBU) Chinese Ambassador to Japan Ki Ou (phonetic from
Japanese pronunciation) visited Okinawa April 24, on a trip
sponsored by the OPG, Okinawa Economic Association, and Okinawa
Visitors and Convention Bureau. Ou masterfully played to
Okinawans' sense of exceptionalism and desire for a new golden
era of lucrative Sino-Okinawan relations. Ou cited the
historical and cultural links between China and the Ryukyus and
said he immediately felt comfortable on this first visit to
Okinawa. Over the past 25 years China's economic expansion had
far outpaced its military expansion, Ou claimed, and its defense
capabilities were reasonable for a country of China's area and
population. China alone, of the five original nuclear powers,
had offered to eliminate all nuclear weapons if the others would
only agree to do the same. Okinawa and China should again
travel together the path of peaceful development, Ou stressed,
and tens of thousands of Chinese tourists annually were sure to
follow.



--------------------------


Caveats


--------------------------





22. (SBU) Okinawa's exceptionalism is not based entirely on
history and feeling; it is used to practical effect. Okinawans
claiming to feel no threat from China often use this to bolster
arguments that bases should be eliminated from Okinawa. For
example, when asked specifically about Chinese military
activities near Okinawa, such as the November 2004 submarine
incursion, former Diet member Tomon grudgingly admitted that the
incident was regrettable. She hastened to add, however, that it
alone did not justify the concentration of U.S. forces and
facilities in Okinawa.



23. (SBU) The claim of exceptionalism is useful even for
conservatives who support the alliance and those who profit from
our base presence. Conservative Okinawans could be seen as
playing good cop to reformists' bad cop, in order to squeeze the
maximum concessions from the GOJ and USG. A number of Okinawan
leaders probably assert this exceptionalism because they believe
it useful in leveraging concessions from the USG and GOJ in
return for Okinawan shouldering the burden of U.S. military
bases.



24. (SBU) Economic self-interest also helps explain Okinawa's
keenness to engage China. In this, Okinawan governments and
businesses have motives similar to those of other provinces now
scrambling to find new sources of income as Koizumi's reforms
reduce the outward flow of GOJ largess. The former Secretary
General of the LDP in Okinawa, Kenjiro Nishida, told us his main
motivation for founding the Okinawa-China Friendship Exchange
Association was to boost the number of Chinese tourists to
Okinawa. He noted his Chinese counterparts met him more than
halfway, being well funded by their Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
ConGen Fukuoka and Consulate Nagoya have identified identical
local motives to engage China, as well as signs of China's
welcoming this engagement (Refs. F, G). The Chinese leadership
may remember Sun Tzu's maxim, ""when he is united, divide him.""
Regardless of how cool relations are between Tokyo and Beijing,
there is no evidence this has had an effect on Okinawa's ties
with China.



25. (SBU) That being said, Okinawan businesspeople whose
interests directly conflict with China are not as relaxed about
Chinese expansion. Local developer Tadashi Zayasu told us he
owned part of an interest in a drilling application in the East
China Sea near the Senkaku Islands. Zayasu said the GOJ had
approved a drilling application filed by the partnership, d.b.a.
Teikoku Oil. The application was filed in 1970, but the GOJ did
not approve it until July 2005. Zayasu mused that the GOJ
seemed bent on helping the Chinese at the expense of Okinawans.
Why else, he asked, would the GOJ have funded a Chinese pipeline
to support their exploitation of the fields while sitting on a
Japanese company's application for over thirty years?



--------------------------


Comment/Conclusion


--------------------------





26. (SBU) The above caveats notwithstanding, Okinawa's sense of
affinity with China and feeling of distance from Japanese
interests give this place a unique perspective on Sino-Japanese
relations, and it shapes the local environment for U.S. military
bases. Due in part to this, many Okinawans are unconvinced that
our bases in Okinawa are needed to defend Japan -- or at least
not to defend Okinawa. Some in the GOJ leadership may value the
domestic political benefits of appealing to Japanese nationalism
over the benefits of improved Sino-Japanese relations (ref. F).
The Yasukuni visits, and Chinese reactions to them, are having
the opposite effect on attitudes in Okinawa. Such acts
strengthen the sense in Okinawa that the LDP leadership, and the
GOJ more broadly, ignore the victims of militarism. Okinawans'
cultural identification with China, combined with a sense of
serial betrayal by the GOJ, fuels local suspicion of GOJ motives
on current political-military issues.
REICH