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Cablegate: Media Papers Over Okinawans' Differences On Mass Suicides

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NAHA 000094

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: JA PREL PGOV MARR
SUBJECT: MEDIA PAPERS OVER OKINAWANS' DIFFERENCES ON MASS SUICIDES

1. (SBU) Summary: The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports,
Science and Technology's (MOE) decision on March 30, 2007 to
delete references to "military ordered" mass suicides from high
school textbooks has met a strong reaction in Okinawa, where the
large majority assumes the over 700 suicides that took place on
the Kerama Islands in 1945, in addition to mass suicides
elsewhere in the prefecture during World War II, were the result
of orders by the former Imperial Japanese Army. MOE's refusal
to reverse its position is having a negative impact on the LDP
in the upcoming Upper House Diet election. End Summary.

Okinawans Divided on Cause of Mass Suicides

2. (SBU) Following a regular screening of 224 high school
textbooks, MOE told seven publishers on March 30 to revise their
descriptions of mass suicides during the Battle of Okinawa.
Texts would be changed from "the former Imperial Japanese Army
forced civilians" to commit suicide, to "some residents
committed or were driven into committing suicide." In a written
statement MOE said, 'It was not possible to conclude that the
military ordered civilians to commit mass suicide." According
to Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Okinawa's Tsunehiro IHA, on
June 13 MOE Policy Chairman Yukihiko FUMURA admitted the
Japanese military connection and responsibility for the mass
suicides by civilians, but said the issue was whether there was
a direct military order. On July 4, Fumura again rebuffed an
Okinawa Prefectural Government petition delivered by Vice
Governor Katsuko ASATO and other Okinawan prefectural and city
assembly representatives. He asked the representatives to
understand that the decision was made by the textbook screening
committee and not MOE, and reiterated that questions remained as
to whether "all" the mass suicides were the result of military
orders.

3. (SBU) Media editorials and anti-revision advocates, who
represent the majority opinion in Okinawa, claim that the fact
that suicides occurred only where the Japanese military was
located is evidence of military coercion. They also add that
the military passed out grenades to civilians and instilled in
them a fear of the American military. One survivor, Shigeaki
Kinjo, said the Japanese military passed out grenades to local
citizens a week before US Forces landed. Another, Noriko
Oshiro, said she clearly remembered family and acquaintances
receiving grenades and instructions on how to use them from
Japanese soldiers. Survivor Shoko Oya said Japanese soldiers
told her group that Americans would rape and kill the women and
run over the men with their vehicles. Vice Governor Asato told
MOE officials that "if even one mass suicide was the result of
military orders, it should be noted in textbooks."

4. (SBU) Some dissenters from the majority view in Okinawa have
questioned whether the military issued orders, or whether the
horror of war simply produced an environment that influenced
some civilians to commit suicide. Some Okinawan survivors say it
was the absence of Japanese military that led to civilian
suicides. Sumiko Tamashiro remembered that after two Japanese
soldiers in the cave where she and others were hiding took their
own lives, the civilians followed suit. Another survivor,
Takejiro Nakamura said Japanese soldiers told civilians they
could rely on them in an emergency, but fled when US forces
landed on the island. Nakamura said civilians choked each other
to death with their hands. Some dissenters from the majority
view have hinted that the real reason that many survivors blamed
the military was to cover up their own guilt for having taken
part in the deaths of friends and family members.

5. (SBU) A May 2007 public opinion poll conducted by the Ryukyu
Shimpo showed that 18 percent of Okinawans surveyed supported
the MOE's textbook revision, suggesting a significant minority

NAHA 00000094 002 OF 002


of Okinawans doubt whether the military ordered the suicides.
The Okinawa chapter of the LDP publicly split in late May
because some of its members also questioned whether the suicides
were the result of the environment at the time or orders. Iha
said in an interview on June 5 that "what is at issue [within
the LDP] is whether the Japanese military as an organization
ordered the suicides or whether in the abnormality of war, these
were simply actions of members of the organization."

Media Sees Government Cover up in MOE Decision

6. (SBU) Few survivors have testified to "direct orders."
Nonetheless, the MOE's decision to revise the textbooks to omit
all reference to military involvement in the suicides has
allowed the anti-revisionists to ignore the lack of evidence of
direct orders and concentrate on general military culpability.
Many perceive MOE officials' public acknowledgement of some
military involvement, coupled with the refusal of MOE to reverse
its guidance to publishers, as another central government cover
up of Okinawans' victimization. June editorials in local daily
newspapers claimed Japan rejected "the torment of 'negative
history." Instead of learning from history, they charged,
Japanese society decided to erase any history of bad behavior by
Japanese. June letters to the editors said the Japanese
government and MOE were trying to fool people, and linked the
government's stance on military involvement in mass suicides to
its denying military responsibility for abuse of comfort women.
Writers saw the MOE's decision as an attempt to avoid taking
responsibility for war crimes, revive the honor of the Japanese
military, and/or lie to Japanese students.

7. (SBU) The press has kept a running tally on the town and city
assemblies that have passed protest resolutions against the
revision and reformist former upper house Diet member, now upper
house candidate, Keiko ITOKAZU has made opposing the textbook
revision a top priority in her campaign. She stresses that
Okinawa "must say no to a change that would lead our children to
war." While Itokazu's conservative opponent Junshiro NISHIME
also opposes the revision, and LDP prefectural assembly members
eventually signed onto a unanimous Okinawa Prefectural Assembly
(OPA) protest resolution on June 22, both Nishime and local LDP
have been tarred by what is being perceived as the current LDP
administration's unwillingness to discuss reversing its decision
on the textbooks.

8. (SBU) Comment: The Okinawan media's steady drumbeat on the
issue, with multiple articles appearing daily in both local
papers, is keeping this issue in the forefront, and it appears
to be hurting the LDP in the runup to the late July upper house
election, given that polls show 82 percent of local people
oppose the textbook revision. Japanese military involvement in
civilian suicides is assumed by the majority in Okinawa. What
is seen by most Okinawans as an attempt by the government to
whitewash that involvement will continue to meet a strong
reaction here. End Comment.


MAHER
REICH

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