The virtues of Shokichi Kina as an Okinawan folk musician are impossible to deny. Long after the man is dead and buried, his song “Hana” will be an immortal classic. As a politician, however, the sooner his career is forgotten the better.
People in Hong Kong knew in their gut that this day would come, the day when there would be an inevitable showdown with China over the former British colony’s autonomy and desire for full democracy in all its governing institutions.
The various dramas occurring today near Henoko beach, Okinawa, and the city of Ferguson, Missouri, undoubtedly have many points of difference, but it is worth reflecting briefly on some issues that unite these two cases.
Almost seventy years after the guns fell silent, the Second World War remains very much present in the media, with frequent reminders of the human cost of the conflict. In the case of Japan this includes the fate of the soldiers and civilians captured in the closing days of the war, when the Soviet Union declared war and quickly overran Manchuria.
June 14 marked the anniversary of the end of the 1982 Falklands conflict. At that time Japan was serving a two-year period as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and was thus involved to a limited degree on the diplomatic side of the conflict. This was still the time of the Cold War, rapid Japanese economic growth, and an era where some of the territorial disputes currently making headlines in Asia were still dormant.
Almost seventy years after the guns fell silent, the Pacific War still haunts Japan in many ways. While the country’s reconstruction took place successfully, and Tokyo found a place in the Pax Americana underpinning economic growth in the Pacific for decades, historical disputes often make headlines and act as an obstacle to deeper relationships with countries such as South Korea.
Faced with a complex and increasingly dangerous regional scenario, under growing demands for naval hardware and diplomatic support from countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, in the midst of complex domestic negotiations concerning the evolving interpretation of constitutional provisions on security and defense, and faced with the need for Japan to redefine its international image, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to have decided to emphasize the “rule of law” as a central tenet of Japanese foreign policy.
I received the news in a telephone call from Japan, which is two hours ahead of Thailand: “There’s been a coup!” my wife exclaimed after answering the phone. “Where”? I asked stupidly. “Here in Thailand.” We turned on the television to get more news, but every channel was just showing file footage of the King.
The first impression one encounters in Ho Chi Minh City is the swarms of motorbikes. I’d seen pictures of this, but nothing quite prepares you for the spectacle of thousands of the little scooters flowing along the streets and even sidewalks like an endless river. By some estimates there are five million motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh, a city of about eight million, which works out to one for practically every able-bodied adult in the city.
Michael Penn urges Tokyo and Washington to respect the will of the Okinawan voter.