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Archives Reveal Plan to Arrest Okinawan Leaders

Date Posted: 2000-02-20

Archives pertaining to the administration of the Ryukyu Islands before reversion, recently discovered in the Okinawa Prefecture Archives, reveal that there was a plan to enact a local law in 1967 that would have allowed the administrators to jail four leftist leaders of the island. The four were Chobo Yara, Shimei Kyan, Kousho Fukuchi and Yasukichi Kamei. The documents were among previously classified papers that were returned to the prefecture.

According to the documents, former Ryukyu chief executive Seiho Matsuoka, who represented the Liberal Democratic Party, hatched the plan. When the proposed legislation was presented to the American High Commissioner, he refused to follow suit. The documents reveal that his reasoning was that if the four leftist leaders were arrested, it would make them heroes in the eyes of Okinawan people. It was also the fear of the Commissioner that the backlash would damage LDP’s standing in Okinawa beyond repair.

This marks the first time the plan has been made public. The secret document was in the diary of the American High Commissioner, and it dated the meeting to May 24th, 1967. According to historian Seiho Matsuoka, that was “the one time the LDP was in power in Okinawa and its local leader obviously wanted it to stay that way.”

Of the four leftist leaders, only Fukuchi is still alive. Upon hearing the discovery of the documents, he said, “I didn’t know that there was a plan to get us arrested. The American High Commissioner did the right thing. He was of course correct and very smart. Had we been arrested, the history of the Ryukyus would have changed quite a bit, because the people were behind us.”

The same document reveals that in 1969, Yara, who was the first elected chief executive of Okinawa, stopped the general strike of Okinawan workers that had been planned for February 4th, 1969. The strike had been planned to push for the removal of American B-52 bombers from Okinawa.

The diary reads, “We are very lucky to have Yara, who has the power and wisdom to stop this very dangerous strike by the workers’ unions. He thinks more about his people’s well being than the class fight.” Yara passed away in 1998.

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