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Japanese PM Hatoyama Steps Down


Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has stepped down, a little more than eight months after taking office. His resignation comes days after he agreed to keep a controversial U.S. Marine base on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, breaking a campaign promise.

An emotional Yukio Hatoyama apologized to the Japanese Wednesday, saying he had failed to keep his word with the people of Okinawa.

Speaking to members of his Democratic Party of Japan, he explained that he had tried for six months to move the base off Okinawa but could not come through on his promise.

With that, Mr. Hatoyama stepped down, becoming the fourth prime minister to resign in four years.

The DPJ came to power last fall in a historic election that unseated the Liberal Democrats, who had ruled Japan for nearly half a century.

But approval ratings for Mr. Hatoyama's government slipped as he failed to renegotiate an agreement to move Marine Corps Base Futenma to a remote part of Okinawa.

Last month, he agreed to go back to the original plan, signed in 2006, after failing to find an alternative with the United States. His approval ratings slipped to just 17 percent.

Mr. Hatoyama says the recent sinking of a South Korean ship showed him how important a strong U.S.-Japan alliance is not only to Japan but to maintaining stability in East Asia. There is no doubt, he says, that conclusion burdened the Okinawans even more.

Mr. Hatoyama also said a campaign financing scandal plaguing the DPJ contributed to his decision to resign He called for his party to come clean and indicated other senior leaders may need to resign.

In the end, Mr. Hatoyama struck an optimistic tone - saying that he was honored to lead the country. And that he believed in the future of Japan.

Mr. Hatoyama comes from one of Japan's most prominent political and business families. One of his grandfathers served as prime minister, while another was founder of Bridgestone, the giant tire-making company.

Voters last year welcomed his pledge to break the hold of Japan's powerful bureaucrats on government operations and proposals to help boost family incomes. But Mr. Hatoyama never fully connected with the public and was seen as quirky.

His party is expected to appoint a new leader before Upper House elections next month.

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