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American Occupation and the Military Bases

With the end of the war, both Japan and Okinawa were placed under American military control, although U.S. control of Okinawa continued even after Japan regained sovereignty seven years later, in 1952. In many ways, however, Japan sacrificed the Ryukyus and allowed them to be controlled by the U.S. military forces for much longer. Many Okinawans felt betrayed and abandoned by Japan, feeling that Japan had sacrificed Okinawa to America in exchange for Japanese sovereignty. In many ways, the continued occupation of Okinawa was part of the post-war deal that the United States and Japan struck, stating that Japan would be able to control its own affairs in exchange for being the United States' main strategic military outpost in Asia. Under the provisions of Japan's Constitution, Article 9 states:

"Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."

In many ways, while Article 9 represents a first in the history of the world by defining Japan as a country unable to maintain armed forces, the provisions of the constitution allow for the continued existence of the U.S. military in Japan, since both U.S. and Japanese leaders argue that since Japan cannot maintain a military force, the U.S. must provide security forces to protect Japan. Japan's leadership agreed to those terms, and sacrificed Okinawa to the U.S. military, with the understanding that most of the U.S. military presence would be sited in Okinawa. In the mid-fifties as the United States focused their attention on the perceived threat of the USSR and communism, Okinawa became even more important to U.S. military forces as a strategic military outpost, and massive base construction began during this time. Thousands of Okinawan landowners were dispossessed from their lands, as huge bases were built on the islands. At this time, the U.S. military recommended that Okinawan landowners be paid a lump sum payment for the use of their lands, equal to the value of the land. Following this recommendation rallies exploded through the island, drawing one sixth of the population in protest to this proposal. Eventually, the U.S. military rescinded this recommendation, and announced a new program for rental payments. Even still, however, 39 U.S. military bases were built in Okinawa to cover over 20 percent of Okinawa's total land area and 40 percent of the island's arable soil. Of all the U.S. military forces stationed in Japan, 75 percent of these forces were located in the islands of Okinawa. From 1945 to the present, not one piece of land has ever been returned to their landowners.

In the political realm, the Okinawa Peoples Party, the Communist party in Okinawa, gradually gained influence in local elections during this time, and represented a direct threat to the U.S. bases, due to the Communist party's opposition to the bases, and support for sovereignty. Caught up in the "Cold War" against communism, the CIA began to take an active role in influencing local elections, and poured large amounts of money into conservative Okinawan candidates' coffers, as they tried to pack elected offices with base-friendly candidates. In 1962, the Okinawan legislature took an extraordinary step in protesting continued U.S. military control when it passed a resolution accusing the United States of colonialism in violation of United Nations ordinances, and urged the United Nations to investigate Okinawa's status.

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