GOVERNOR TAMAKI’S DESIRE TO ENSLAVE OKINAWA TO CHINA
Governor Denny Tamaki of Okinawa Prefecture must have been on cloud nine after engaging in a dialogue with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Beijing on July 5. Unable to contain his excitement during the subsequent luncheon, Tamaki burst into the energetic dance known as “Kachāshī,” a unique Okinawan festive folk dance typically performed by everyone present at the end of a celebration. However, on that day, Tamaki danced alone, expressing his joy with his entire being. With each bold step he took, it seemed as though he might soar into the air at any moment. He must have been truly elated.
Tamaki conferred with Li as a member of a delegation from the Japan International Trade Promotion Association (JAPIT) headed by Yohei Kono, a pro-Beijing former president of the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party. During the commemorative photo shoot, the Chinese side positioned Tamaki on the left side of Premier Li and Kono on the right side. In China, the position of the Left Minister is higher than that of the Right Minister. Therefore, by being placed on the left side of Premier Li, Tamaki received the utmost hospitality.”
Although highly regarded by the Chinese side, Tamaki’s reputation at home is not favorable. Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama of Ishigaki City which holds jurisdiction over the Senkaku Islands, shook his head as he observed:
“I simply couldn’t understand Governor Tamaki’s behavior. Almost daily, Chinese Coast Guard ships infiltrate our territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands. Fishermen from the nearby Yaeyama Islands are chased by the Chinese ships every time they go fishing. This despite the fact that the islands and the seas belong to Japan and Ishigaki City has jurisdiction over them. All the people of Ishigaki City are angry.”
But Tamaki views the situation as someone else’s affair. He asserted that the Senkakus should be a matter to be discussed at the national level, maintaining: “The Chinese side did not bring up the Senkaku issue this time around, and I myself didn’t specifically refer to it.”
An attack on Taiwan would be an attack on Japan. Daily made aware of China’s abnormal military buildup, Okinawans are afraid of a possible Chinese invasion. Not only Ishigaki and Yonaguni but all of Okinawa Prefecture is faced with the uncertainty of an imminent attack. Obviously, it was incumbent on the governor to explain the concerns of Okinawans to China, urge Beijing to show restraint, and demand that Chinese ships leave Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkakus.
But the governor didn’t utter a single word concerning the matter. Instead, he requested that flights between China and Okinawa be increased. Not only that. He even appealed to the Chinese side that, in the absence of a Chinese consulate general in Okinawa, it was “burdensome” for Okinawans to apply for visas outside their prefecture. Premier Li responded by saying he would “like to improve the situation.”
Tamaki Earnestly Desires Chinese consulate in Okinawa
There is a deep meaning here. China has long wanted to open its consulate general in Okinawa, but the Japanese government has been reluctant. China now has six consulates general in Japan, including two in Kyushu (Fukuoka and Nagasaki). Meanwhile, Japan has an equal number of consulates general in China, keeping a balance.
Okinawa has already been subject to China’s information manipulation and infiltration in various ways. Take the Ryukyu independence movement, for instance. Only a handful of people in Okinawa nowadays are still involved in a campaign to separate the prefecture from Japan and rebuild an independent Ryukyu Kingdom, developing assertions contrary to historical and linguistic facts that Ryukyuans are ethnically different from Japanese with a language of their own.
But China has supported these people openly and covertly, for example by sponsoring seminars on Ryukyu’s independence. It is natural for the Japanese government to be cautious about approving a new consulate general, which may well become a base for China’s propaganda operations. During his trip, however, Tamaki in effect formally requested that China open its consulate general in his prefecture.
Since Tamaki didn’t say anything about the Senkakus, as he regards this as a matter for the national government to handle, he should have also refrained from saying anything about establishing a consulate general in Okinawa. In April this year, Tamaki opened a “regional diplomatic office” at the Okinawa prefectural headquarters, stating his aspirations to promote diplomacy from the standpoint of a local government. Doesn’t he realize that the nation’s foreign affairs and security are strictly entrusted with the central government? But Okinawa Prefecture has gone so far as to present a fundamental plan called the “New Okinawa 21st Century Vision.” It seems as if they are determined to develop international relations as an entity distinct from the nation. Seki Hei, a respected naturalized commentator who hails from China, remarked that he “wouldn’t rule this out as a possible starting point towards Okinawa’s independence.” (“Genron” Internet TV, July 14）
Visiting China four years ago as a member of a JAPIT delegation also headed by Kono, Tamaki pleaded when he was received by then Premier Hu Chunhua: “Please use Okinawa as a doorway to Japan for your Belt and Road initiative.” Hu gladly shot back: “We certainly will.” It is clearly against our national interests for Japan to be incorporated into this massive Chinese infrastructure project. By any chance, was Tamaki’s true diplomatic intention a desire for his prefecture to become a Chinese protectorate?
I thought so because of Tamaki’s further action in China as explained by novelist and prominent critic Ryusho Kadota during my “Genron” Friday night Internet news show on July 14. Kadota noted:
“Tamaki gave a long interview to the Global Times, a tabloid under the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Accompanied by a reporter, he visited the ruins of a graveyard in Beijing’s suburbs where islanders from the Ryukyu Kingdom were buried during the Qing Dynasty.”
“In this grave lies Rin Seiko (Japanese name: Shunbo Nashiro), a scholar-bureaucrat of the Ryukyu Kingdom and descendant of immigrants from Fujian. Before the Meiji government annexed the Ryukyus in 1879, Lin fled to Qin Dynasty China to enlist its support to block the annexation.”
Japan Could End up Becoming Part of Chinese Nation
Passionately opposed to the Ryukyus’ annexation to Japan as Okinawa Prefecture, Lin petitioned the Qing government to dispatch troops. Failing to obtain the desired support, however, he took his own life in despair in Beijing. Kadota observed:
“In short, a Ryukyuan who was a Chinese descendant and traveled to China to seek Qing Dynasty’s backing is buried in the grave, which was visited by a pro-Beijing governor of Okinawa. The Global Times and other Chinese media outlets gave the occasion extensive coverage. They took Tamaki to the grave in an effort to portray him as a modern Rin Seiko.”
“When the Chinese took him to the grave, Tamaki burned incense brought along from Okinawa. That itself was fine. But he emphasized to the Chinese media that the incense he carried was not of Japanese origin, having been brought into Japan from China centuries ago.”
Under ordinary circumstances, there would have been no problem with anyone explaining to Chinese that “incense originated in China.” But Seki explained that the Chinese intended to give a special meaning to every word the pro-Beijing governor uttered.
About a month before the visit by Tamaki and his colleagues July 3-7, Xi visited the Chinese National Archives of Publications and Culture in Beijing June1-2, referring to the special depth of relations he emphasized existed between China and Okinawa. The following day, he gave a lecture on the unity of Chinese culture. Seki noted.
”At the time, Xi Jinping discussed the unity of Chinese culture, asserting that the Ryukyu Islands are part of Chinese culture, and thus part of China itself. He made these remarks early last month, knowing that the Okinawan governor was visiting China as a member of a Japanese delegation. Xi was aware of Mr. Tamaki’s pro-China stance. This was why the Chinese leader made those remarks, seeking to fully exploit Mr. Tamaki within China’s extensive historical framework by stressing that the Ryukyus have been strongly influenced by—and are culturally integrated with—China.
”In China today, an idea closely aligned with Xi’s intentions is taking root, proclaiming that countries heavily influenced by Chinese culture and traditions, including not only Okinawa but also the rest of Japan, from Hokkaido to the Nansei Islands, are all part of China, and that the Japanese people are part of the Chinese race. As a result, the Chinese manipulated Mr. Tamaki to play a role that perfectly fit their scheme.”
”If Japan were to lose out to China’s propaganda tactics, it could end up becoming a part of the Chinese nation. Governor Tamaki’s recent visit to China vividly showcased his lack of wisdom in representing Okinawa.”
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 1,058 in the July 20, 2023 issue of The Weekly Shincho)