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Okinawan sorrow

n Japan, Okinawa inhabitants have been fighting for more than 30 years against the massive presence of US military bases on their land. The Futenma base is seen as a danger for the population and has become a symbol of this struggle. Its transfer to the north of the island imagined by the authorities would cause a major ecological disaster. But the interest of the inhabitants is in conflict with the political views and the diplomatic relations between Japan and the US.

Okinawa Island is the poorest district of Japan, and is still bearing the consequences of the American occupation at the end of the Second World War. The bloody fight that marked the island's capitulation led to the death of approximately 110 000 Japanese. Although Okinawa has been retroceded to Japan in 1972, the island still hosts about 75 % of the American military bases of the whole archipelago, which represent 18 000 soldiers. It causes the anger of a population which is more and more hostile to the American presence.
The Futenma air and sea base, which is located in the heart of a dense urban zone in the south of Okinawa, has become the symbol of theses people's struggle, as they feel sacrificed to the political interests of the two powerful countries. Futenma is a highly strategical base for the U.S., thanks to its position in the pacific. Its is also very important for Japan, as it ensures that the U.S. Would support them in case of trouble in this touchy area.
However, crimes committed by some of the G.I's infuriate the Island inhabitants, and in 1996, following the rape of a little girl by a G.I, more than 180 000 of them demonstrated to ask for Futenma to be shut down.
In 2016, the struggle is still going on. Okinawa government, which was elected thanks to its promise to shut down the base, as only been able to opt for its transfer to Henoko, a village on the northern coast of the island . The population feels betrayed, as this transfer would imply an ecological disaster, because it would destroy a coral reef which is the natural habitat of numerous endemic and endangered species. The US military has made the completion of the new base at Henoko a condition for closing the dangerous Marine Corps Futenma Air Station. By linking the closure of Futenma to the construction of the new air base, the Japanese government and the US military have offered Okinawa’s urban residents the intolerable option of choosing whether to sacrifice their own safety, or their environmental heritage.
Since 2014, so that their cause would not be forgotten, part of the population has started direct actions in front of the bases, but has to face public public indifference and police repression.

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