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Discord within DPJ over Futenma base issue

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan has begun publicly proposing the transfer of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from Ginowan City in Okinawa to Camp Schwab in Nago City. Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio is showing his tacit approval of transferring the base within Okinawa.

However, the DPJ is increasing its internal discord amid the mounting anger of Okinawans at the DPJ breach of promise not to transfer the base within Okinawa.

Bad old idea wonft work

A DPJ member of the Okinawa prefectural assembly said, gIf the plan to transfer the base to Camp Schwab in Nago City is enforced, the DPJ prefectural association would break up.h He went on to say:

gIn addition to the recent Nago City mayoral election result, the DPJ must keep in mind the promise of a gchangeh of government that followed the general election last summer. It wonft work if the Hatoyama government retains the old idea that the U.S. Marines must stay in Japan as a deterrence force.h

The DPJ Okinawa prefectural assembly association on February 18 published a statement pointing out that the government has failed to show that it has seriously strived to transfer the base outside Okinawa or outside Japan. The statement demands: gSince the DPJ publicly promised to oppose the transfer of the base within Okinawa, we will firmly oppose any intra-Okinawa transfer plan, including the ones to move it to Camp Schwab, to annex it to Kadena Base, or to use the airport at Shimojishima Island.h

Behind this position lies the fact that the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution opposing any transfer in Okinawa and that the Nago City Assembly on March 5 unanimously adopted a resolution objecting to the Camp Schwab plan.

A key DPJ member of an association over U.S. bases in Okinawa and elsewhere, comprised of assembly members from the DPJ, the Social Democratic Party, and the Japanese Communist Party, said, gWe donft accept the Camp Schwab plan, though Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano Hirofumi is apparently attempting to push for the Camp Schwab plan. The public promise of the DPJ is that the base be transferred out of Okinawa. It is reasonable for Japan to make a decision on its own, which is normal for an independent nation.h This opinion, however, has not yet become mainstream in the DPJ.

A young DPJ assembly member apologetically said, gThe Camp Schwab plan is realistic. We feel sorry for the people of Okinawa. However, many DPJ assembly members are of the opinion that the plan is the best choice.h

U.S. opposition

In the meantime, some policy analysts in the United States argue that if Japan fails to find a place to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district in Nago City in Okinawa, the United States will pull its Marines out of Japan and Japan should not underestimate the subsequent impact of a withdrawal. This is a threat as stated by Richard P. Lawless, former deputy assistant secretary of defense (Asahi Shimbun, March 4).

A middle-ranking DPJ lawmaker revealed his sense of crisis by stating, gIf the DPJ government lets the U.S. Marines leave Japan, it will increase public anxiety and conservatives will use it that undermines confidence in the DPJ. Thus the DPJ will likely split up and this will cause serious political turmoil.h

Another DPJ Dietmember elected from Okinawa said, gSome may be thinking of tiding things over until the Upper House election by separating the Futenma base issue from other issues but I think this is wishful thinking.h

- Akahata, March 8, 2010


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