Wednesday, November 20, 2013

15 things Ambassador Kennedy needs to know about Okinawa - Stripes

An open letter to Caroline Kennedy: Mrs. Kennedy, congratulations on your confirmation and appointment as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan. Many people here are excited about your pending arrival, and the possibilities presented for our two countries at this important juncture.

Your father, uncle and grandmother have all been to Japan before, as have you and, I am sure, many other of your family members. Your father’s administration, furthermore, contributed greatly to U.S.-Japan relations, and to moving the health, welfare and education policies of Okinawa, then under U.S. administration, further along. For this, many of us who experienced the benevolence of the U.S. administration are grateful as we moved toward eventual reversion to Japan a decade later.

As was true then, Okinawa is a very complicated place and the so-called “Okinawa problem” is difficult to understand because of the collision of vested interests on the one hand and fog of ignorance, misunderstanding and willful misrepresentation of the situation by some in the media, political world, academia and activists on the other. Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, even alluded to Okinawa in his opening remarks at your confirmation hearings, although I do not think he himself has ever been here.

Because of this situation, I wish to give you some advice about Okinawa — the 15 most important things I, as someone born and raised here and who cares deeply about the Japan-U.S. relationship, think you should know before you visit our prefecture:

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