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HOME  > Past issues  > 2010 June 30 - July 6  > New government cannot break away from traditional stance toward U.S.
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2010 June 30 - July 6 [FOREIGN POLICY]

New government cannot break away from traditional stance toward U.S.

November 14, 2009
One of the major pending questions between Japan and the U.S. is the “relocation” of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma base in Ginowan City, Okinawa. The topic is a touchstone for the new Japanese coalition government to show whether it can break away from the course of the former government led by the Liberal Democratic and Komei parties, which had forced Okinawans to shoulder excessive U.S. base burdens and worked to perpetuate the bilateral military alliance.

In their summit meeting on November 13, Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to have a ministerial working group reach a conclusion on the Futenma issue instead of doing so between themselves.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the leading ruling party, originally called for the Futenma base to be relocated outside Okinawa or Japan. However, once urged by the U.S. side to stick to the 2006 bilateral agreement to construct a new base on the shoreline of U.S. Camp Schwab in the Henoko district of Okinawa’s Nago City, cabinet members started calling for base relocation within the prefecture. They yield to U.S. pressure so easily because they have the same stance as the former government that asserts that Japan needs the U.S. forces in Okinawa as a shield of deterrence.

On November 8, 21,000 Okinawans in a rally expressed opposition to the construction of a new U.S. base and called for closure and removal of the Futenma base. The opinion poll taken by a local paper shows that about 70 percent of Okinawans are against the planned base construction. Faced the strong local opposition, Prime Minister Hatoyama had to convey at the summit meeting that residents are expecting the government to realize its promise to move the Futenma base outside Okinawa or Japan.

On the other hand, the U.S. refuses to break away from its traditional diplomatic stance treating Japan as its subordinate. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates strongly demanded that Japan implement the bilateral agreement for construction of a new base in Henoko since it is the “only realistic” plan.

In the summit meeting, President Obama stressed that the two countries are equal partners and the U.S. military realignment plan reflects the equality of the partnership. However, no Okinawans recognizes any “equality” from the remark made by Gates that the U.S. will not return the Futenma base site without a new base constructed in Okinawa.
- Akahata, November 14, 2009
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