Mace B and Honest John were the names of missiles that were deployed in Okinawa at one time by the U.S. military.

I once saw the remnants of their massive launchpads that had been built before Okinawa reverted to Japanese administration in 1972. The platforms, made of thick concrete, faced northwest and targeted China.

Okinawan poet Baku Yamanokuchi (1903-1963) expressed the sorrow of the people who had to live back-to-back with those projectiles: “Honest Johns and missiles are gathered there/ Pointing their mouths at the air/ They will keep doing that/ As long as unrest continues in the Far East.”

Years and months have elapsed since, but Okinawa is again being geared up for missile deployment, this time by the Ground Self-Defense Force.

Needless to say, the missiles are of a different scale and power from what the U.S. military had in the past.

However, they are likely to be eventually replaced with long-range units capable of counter-attacking enemy bases, “pointing their mouths at the air” and being deployed jointly with U.S. forces.

Okinawa was returned to Japan on May 15 exactly 52 years ago.

The island prefecture’s wish at the time was to be rid of nuclear weapons and have its burden of hosting U.S. bases reduced to a level similar to that of the rest of Japan.

The nukes were removed from Okinawa. But the prefecture's base-related burden hasn’t been reduced at all.

To date, every one of Tokyo’s reasons for keeping the U.S. bases in Okinawa has been given as an afterthought—for the sake of stability in the Far East, as a buffer against North Korea’s threat, to counter terrorism, and so on and so forth.

But more recently, it appears that China’s growing threat is being used as an excuse for letting Okinawa serve as a “breakwater” for Japan, and that this perception is gaining greater support not only among conservative politicians, but even among the public at large.

When a defense minister argued that the presence of U.S. bases in Okinawa served as a deterrent, former Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga (1950-2018) countered, “You people probably see Okinawa only as a territory.”

These are words to remember.

—The Asahi Shimbun, May 15

* * *

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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VOX POPULI: Okinawa will host missiles 'pointing their mouths at the air'

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15.05.2024

Mace B and Honest John were the names of missiles that were deployed in Okinawa at one time by the U.S. military.

I once saw the remnants of their massive launchpads that had been built before Okinawa reverted to Japanese administration in 1972. The platforms, made of thick concrete, faced northwest and targeted China.

Okinawan poet Baku Yamanokuchi (1903-1963) expressed the sorrow of the people who had to live back-to-back with those projectiles: “Honest Johns and missiles are gathered there/ Pointing their mouths at the air/ They will keep doing that/ As long as unrest continues in the Far East.”

Years and months........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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