When does Ryukyu become independent?

Japan: independence for Okinawa?

On the US "unsinkable aircraft carrier" off the coast of China, displeasure with the foreign soldiers and distant Tokyo stirs

The influential Japanese newspaper Mainichi in its English-language edition, accuses China of supporting an independence movement in Okinawa. The island is the largest of the Ryukyu archipelago south of the main Japanese islands. Until the late 19th century there was a kingdom of the same name that was ultimately only formally independent. Before it came more and more under the influence of neighboring Japanese rulers, it had the status of a vassal state of the Chinese emperors for several centuries.

The population of around 1.4 million people today, who speak a language of their own but is related to Japanese, has apparently never really gotten to warm to the northern empire into which their country was incorporated. Attempts to assimilate them, which began after the annexation in 1879, certainly contributed to this.

At the end of World War II, a battle of several months between US troops and the Japanese military broke out on Okinawa, killing around 200,000 civilians, a quarter of the population at the time. The islands were then administered by the US until 1972 before they were returned to Japan. Even today there are several dozen US bases on Okinawa, which occupy a considerable part of the territory and against which there are repeated protests from the population. 52,000 military and civilians are employed in the bases.

Many islanders are particularly bitter because of the frequent violent attacks on women by the soldiers, for which they cannot be brought to justice in local courts. In the 2009 election campaign, the then successful Democratic Party promised to move its troops from the island. But nothing happened. Instead, they should move to a new base on the island, which is also highly controversial.

However, despite all the disappointment with Japanese politics, the number of supporters of independence seems small. Last year, an opinion poll by a local newspaper showed that a break from the Japanese Empire was only supported by just under five percent of the population. But for Tomochi Masaki of the independence movement mentioned above, this is only an expression of “the long history of colonial rule of Okinawa by Japan”. And the magazine Thediplomatis already asking if Okinawa could become the Scotland of East Asia.

Meanwhile, it is a completely different matter whether there is actually support from official China for such a development. Actually, it is rather unlikely that the government in Beijing would like to see such a Pandora's box opened on their doorstep in view of the various minority conflicts simmering in the People's Republic.

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