Okinawa: Toward Security and Prosperity in the Asia-Pacific Region

Kushi, Patricia
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
During the fifteenth century Okinawa became united as the Kingdom of Ryukyu. The kingdom enjoyed a flourishing trade with Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, and especially China. As one of the most active seafaring nations in Asia, Okinawan ships routinely sailed as far away as Malacca and maintained friendly relations with most of her neighbors. The following poem is inscribed on a bell that was cast in 1458. (Okinawa) I is a superior land in the South Seas Gathering the cream of the three Korean states. Maintaining close relations with China and Japan. She is the Land of Immortals,Gushing forth between the two states. Ships are means of communication with all nations. The Kingdom is full of rare products and precious treasures. This bell, which once hung in the Shuri Castle palace in Okinawa and is now at home at the Okinawa Prefecture Museum, serves important testament to several factors that did then and do now impact Okinawa: Okinawa's geographical location in relation to the rest of the world; Okinawa's diplomacy; Okinawa's dependence on trade; and Okinawa's pride and patriotism. Through my review of Okinawa's history and recent events, I contend that international peace-keeping operations should recognize the needs and strategic importance of Okinawa to enhance Okinawan development in the international community. I also maintain that, despite the competing powers of Japan's Central Government over the Okinawan Prefecture and occupation by the United States' military forces, Okinawa nurtures her aspiration for self-sustained development, and the United States and Japan need to clarify the principles guiding the security alliance inclusive of parity for Okinawa's involvement. In this work I first present my understanding of events in Okinawan history that culminate in her current relationship to the United States and Japan. In understanding Okinawa's history, we find that Okinawa has suffered discontent under United States occupation and Japan control. I next explore the alliance among Okinawa, the United States of America, and the Japan Central Government as it is described and set forth in the "Japan-United States Security Alliance" specifically regarding the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) Report. In addition, I include possible solutions to sharing Okinawa's burden of occupation. Finally, I offer my analysis of what the future in the twenty-first century may hold for Okinawa because it is the convergence of Okinawan, American and Japanese interests that will determine Okinawa's future. I am interested in Okinawa and its relation to Japan and the United States because my paternal ancestors are from Okinawa, my maternal ancestors are from mainland Japan, and because I am, above all, an American.
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