Keystone: The American Occupation of Okinawa and US-Japanese Relations

Article excerpt

ASIA

Reviews by Steven H. Lee

University of British Columbia

The American occupation of Okinawa and U.S.-Japanese relations

Nicholas Evan Sarantakes

College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2000, 264pp, US$34.95, ISBN 0-89096-969-8

Sarantakes examines the contemporary history of American relations with Okinawa, an island located in the Ryukyu chain about 1,000 miles south of Tokyo in the East China Sea. The Ryukyus had been incorporated into Japan in 1879, but the United States military acquired them during the Second World War. Although some of the northern islands were returned to Japan in 1953, the United States military governed Okinawa from 1945 to 1972. Under the Japanese Peace Treaty, Japan retained 'residual sovereignty' over the Ryukyus, but Sarantakes argues that this was a legal fiction, and that Okinawa was an American colony. Many Okinawans objected to American rule.

The book highlights a number of incidents that placed the local population at odds with their American overseers. In 1956, the people of Naha elected a mayor who belonged to the island's communist party. When the American military commander passed regulations that facilitated the mayor's removal from office, the city elected a socialist. In 1962, the conservative Okinawan legislature passed a resolution that referred to the United States as a colonial power. America held on to Okinawa because the island was a 'keystone' of its strategy in the Pacific and because the military lobbied forcefully to retain it. Until the mid-1960s, United States economic aid was 'the key to gaining Okinawan acquiescence to American rule' (p 61). …

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