Sunday, March 28, 2010

Words of wisdom from beyond the grave of Japan's secret pacts

“A drama currently being played out on the stage of national politics in Japan may well mark a turning point in the country’s postwar history.”
Roger Pulvers

On March 28, the Japan Times published an op-ed written by Roger Pulvers. In this article, he talks about Kei Wakaizumi, a man who played an important role in the creation of the secret agreements between Japan and America.

In the late 60s, Wakaizumi and Henry Kissinger wrote a secret agreement that allowed America to bring its nuclear weapons into Okinawa in the event of an emergency. When Richard Nixon and Eisaku Sato signed the agreement, only two other people knew about its existence – Henry Kissinger and Kei Wakaizumi. As the years went by, Wakaizumi began to feel an enormous sense of guilt over his role in forging the agreement. In the late 80s, he had a nervous breakdown.

“I have brought about new insecurity, anguish and anger to the people of Okinawa,” said Wakaizumi.

The goal of his negotiations with America was to garner the return of Okinawa to Japan. He succeeded in doing that. However, in many ways, for the people of Okinawa, the occupation did not end. In fact, you could argue that the occupation grew worse. After the Vietnam War, America agreed to remove its forces from the urban areas in Japan. Some of those forces relocated to Okinawa, which at that time had relatively large areas of uninhabited land available for use. So in some respects, you could argue that Wakaizumi failed in his job to end the occupation of Okinawa. Perhaps that failure led to his depression.

In 1994, he wrote a book about his role in the return of Okinawa called “The Best Course Available.” The time immediately after the publication of that book was also a period of great upheaval in Japan. A Socialist prime minister had recently assumed power. At the beginning of 1995, a 6.8 earthquake killed over six thousand people in the Kobe area. A terrorist group killed thirteen people in the Tokyo subways using a chemical weapon in March. Towards the end of the year, a group of U.S. servicemen raped a girl in Okinawa. This crime enraged the people of Okinawa and led to a reconsideration of the alliance between Japan and America.

But in the end, nothing happened. At the beginning of 1996, the LDP returned to power. Bill Clinton met with the new prime minister, bromides were exchanged, and nothing much changed.

Wakaizumi would commit suicide later that year.

In many respects, the situation at the beginning of the new decade seems very similar to the situation Japan faced before he killed himself. A new party has taken control of the country. An enormous earthquake has killed thousands of people. We are once again threatening to tell the world the truth about our history. But I think there will at least one difference between then and now. I do not plan on leading a failed revolution.
Japan must begin to present its national interest and its principles to Asia and the entire world, beginning with the United States. That national interest and those principles must, in turn, be based resolutely on an autonomous spirit of independence, be expressed with an unwavering mettle and be couched in language that is universally understood.
– Kei Wakaizumi

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