Okinawa Governor Tamaki on the Islands’ Changing Security Situation

The East Asian region surrounding Okinawa is changing at a dizzying pace, as rising tensions in the Taiwan Strait dramatically alter the security situation. The revision of Japan’s Three Security Documents in December, the proposed increase in its defense budget, and the strengthening of the U.S.-Japanese alliance announced at the meeting between President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida in January all signify the intensification of deterrence efforts in the region, and local residents are increasingly anxious about the increased military presence and the increased frequency of military exercises.  On the other hand, plans are underway for the re-alignment of Marine Corps stationed in Okinawa, and the transferring of some units based in the prefecture to Guam. Against this backdrop, many voices in Okinawa are calling for persistent diplomatic efforts among East Asian states that rely as much on dialogue and reassurance as on deterrence.  To discuss these issues and more, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft is co-sponsoring an online and in-person event with the Okinawa Prefectural Government and George Washington University. The discussion will feature Okinawa Governor Yasuhiro “Denny” Tamaki, on his first visit to the U.S. in three years; and Michael Swaine, Senior Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute. Mike Mochizuki, Associate Professor of U.S.-Japan relations at George Washington University and non-resident fellow at the Quincy Institute, will moderate.


Yasuhiro “Denny” Tamaki

Yasuhiro “Denny” Tamaki is serving his second term as governor of Okinawa Prefecture in Japan. He was first elected to the position in 2018. Tamaki previously served in Japan’s House of Representatives beginning in 2009, after holding a seat on the Okinawa city council from 2002 to 2005. He is a graduate of the Sophia School of Social Welfare. Tamaki recognizes the importance of the U.S.-Japan security alliance and its contribution to the regional peace and security. However, he opposes the creation of a new base to replace MCAS Futenma, which the U.S. and Japanese Governments agreed in 1996 to shut down, as the proposed new base would add to the prefecture’s disproportionate share of hosting the U.S. military facilities in Japan. He advocates engaging in dialogue and diplomacy rather than solely depending on deterrence to preserve East Asian security.

Michael Swaine

Michael D. Swaine, a Senior Research Fellow at QI’s East Asia program, is one of the most prominent American scholars of Chinese security studies. He comes to QI from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he worked for nearly twenty years as a senior fellow specializing in Chinese defense and foreign policy, U.S.-China relations, and East Asian international relations. Swaine served as a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. Swaine has authored and edited more than a dozen books and monographs, including Remaining Aligned on the Challenges Facing Taiwan (with Ryo Sahashi; 2019), Conflict and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region: A Strategic Net Assessment (with Nicholas Eberstadt et al; 2015) and many journal articles and book chapters.

Mike Mochizuki (Moderator)

Mike Mochizuki is the Japan-US Relations Chair in Memory of Gaston Sigur at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute. Professor Mochizuki was Associate Dean for Academic Programs at the Elliott School from 2010 to 2014 and Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies from 2001 to 2005. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University. His recent books include Memory, Identity, and Commemorations of World War II: Anniversary Politics in Asia Pacific (co-editor and co-author, 2018); Energy Security in Asia and Eurasia (co-editor and co-author, 2017); Nuclear Debates in Asia: The Role of Geopolitics and Domestic Processes (co-editor and author, 2016); The Okinawa Question: Futenma, the US-Japan Alliance, and Regional Security (co-editor and author, 2013). He is currently completing a book manuscript entitled Allies and Rivals: the U.S.-Japan Alliance and the Rise of China.