Vice president Al Gore, filling in for Bill Clinton, will try to justify to the people of Japan why they should support maintaining thousands of U.S. troops and massive military bases on their soil when he meets with Japan's prime minister. Washington wants to reaffirm the terms of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, in place since 1960, and is pressing hard to hold off any changes. Big-business politicians and the media in the United States have expressed irritation that more of their counterparts in Japan have not pitched in to counter publicly the rising tide of sentiment there against the U.S. bases.
On a recent visit to Japan, U.S. defense secretary William Perry pointed to North Korea as a threat to the region, declaring that Tokyo and Washington had to be firm allies in "facing one of the post Cold War [era's] most dangerous threats: a rogue nation with nuclear weapons." This hypocrisy comes from the very imperialist power that dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and that today maintains troops and a nuclear arsenal in the south of the Korean peninsula.
Washington has its bases in Japan to maintain the imperialist exploitation and domination of the peoples of the region. It also has divergent interests from those of the Japanese capitalist class. Having a massive military presence on Japan's soil gives it an upper hand in the inevitable and growing competition that is a part of the crisis of the capitalist economic system.
The hesitancy of capitalist spokespeople in Japan to defend the status quo reflects Tokyo's growing need to defend its own interests directly, including through military power. That is why some politicians there call for reexamining the long-standing pact with Washington.
But the protests against the U.S. military show that millions of working people in Japan reject the idea that the bases and the troops have anything to do with aiding the peoples of Asia.
On Okinawa especially, the legacy of decades of direct rule by the U.S. military and the occupation of one-fifth of the island by the bases has led to deep-going opposition. The recent kidnapping and rape of a schoolgirl by three U.S. soldiers touched off a huge response because of the history of abuse at the hands of the occupying military forces. It is also true that, wherever the U.S. military sets up, centers of prostitution are organized around the bases. This is what many Okinawans, and others throughout Japan, are demanding be brought to an end by ousting the bases.
Removing the bases would be a step forward for all working people by limiting the ability of the world's number one warmaker to use its forces against workers and farmers in Asia. We should join with those in Japan demanding: U.S. Bases Out! and Yankee Go Home!
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