Denny Tamaki, the recently re-elected Governor of Okinawa, traveled to DC for a weeklong trip to lobby lawmakers and officials to reduce the disproportionate burden of US military bases in Okinawa, which hosts over 70% of US military presence in Japan. The Governor met with leading US officials including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other lawmakers and aides, as well as government officials, diplomats, and academics, to discuss the critical issues pertaining to the US bases and stress the need for diplomacy to ease tensions with China.
Tamaki told reporters he met with AOC for over 30 minutes to brief the Congresswoman on the local opposition against the construction of a new US base at Henoko. He explained the US and Japanese governments are ignoring the will of Okinawans through this construction, as well as noting that toxic PFAS chemical contamination of soil and water from the bases are worsening and require immediate studies by the US government. During the meeting, AOC indicated concern over these issues and expressed willingness to work together on a solution, including through potential legislation. She told the Okinawa Times that her office will review the contents of the meeting and consider what action is necessary.
During last week’s visit, Governor Tamaki also met with Senator Todd Young (R-IN) and Representative Jill Tokuda (D-HI), as well as aides of Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Ed Markey(D-MA), and the Senate Armed Services Committee. Other meetings including with State Department officials, the Japanese Ambassador, and DC think tank experts, sought to emphasize the need for constructive dialogue. A panel discussion co-hosted by the Quincy Institute, Okinawa Prefectural Government, and George Washington University, with Tamaki, professor Mike Mochizuki, and senior research fellow Michael Swaine, stressed the importance of addressing the issues with the bases and for the US to engage diplomatically in the Asia-Pacific, instead of escalating its already high military presence.
As US tensions with China continue to rise, Governor Tamaki asked lawmakers “to tell the US government to conduct diplomacy peacefully and relieve tensions to not bring war to Okinawa''. With increased Japanese military spending, expanded US-Japanese joint military drills, and plans from Tokyo to station surface-to-air missiles in Okinawa, Tamaki instead brought to the US a message of diplomacy, urging dialogue over military buildup on the issue with Taiwan.
The Governor’s visit follows growing opposition to the US bases in Okinawa, including from organizations such as the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), as well as DSA state and local elected officials in the US who signed a recent letter outlining the issues and opposition to the bases. While hardliners against China dominate US mainstream politics, people in the Asia-Pacific region who feel their voices are ignored by the US government are the ones paying the burden of this rising militarism.
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams and was authored by Gerard Dalbon.