News / Asia

Japanese PM's Reversal on US Base May Have Political Cost

Political analysts in Japan say Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's reversal on a key campaign pledge is likely to cost him in coming elections.  Mr. Hatoyama told residents of Okinawa this week it will probably be impossible to completely move a U.S. marine base off the island.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama went to Okinawa this week to deliver a message that left many islanders disappointed.

He says given the current U.S.-Japan relationship and from the perspective that they need to keep deterrence power, it has become difficult to move all the functions of Futenma air station.  He says he brings his "deepest apologies."

The U.S. Marine Corps Futenma air station on Okinawa has long been a target of protesters.  A large city has grown around it over the past 50 years, and residents complain the base's aircraft are noisy and dangerous.

Okinawa hosts about half of the 49,000 U.S. troops in Japan, on several bases, as part of an alliance forged after World War II.  

In 2006, after years of negotiations, the U.S. and Japan agreed to move Futenma to a coastal area in northern Okinawa, and to move about 8,000 other Marines to the U.S. island of Guam.

But Mr. Hatoyama's Democratic Party won a landslide victory last August, boosted partly by pledges to move Futenma entirely off Okinawa. He had promised a new plan for the base this month.

Tomohiko Taniguchi, adjunct political science professor at Japan's Keio University, says Mr. Hatoyama repeated the pledge "dozens of times," and has embarrassed himself by backtracking.

"It is none other than himself who dropped a huge stone on his own feet … he's made an absolute about face," said Taniguchi.

Taniguchi points out that the town where Futenma is to be moved this year elected a mayor who staunchly opposes the 2006 deal, presenting a challenge for Mr. Hatoyama.

"So no one believes that this plan is going to fly, especially by the end of May, which is a self-imposed deadline for Mr. Hatoyama," said Taniguchi.

Jeff Kingston, an Asian studies scholar at the Tokyo branch of Temple University in the United States, describes Mr. Hatoyama as being "between a rock and a hard place" (trapped between two difficult choices).

"This puts Hatoyama in an extremely difficult position," he said. "He's saying to everybody, 'I'm going to have to back down and go back to square one.'  This is going to really hurt him and hurt his party."

Kingston says there are mixed feelings about the U.S. - Japan alliance among many Japanese voters.

"Even though there is a resentment about the high-handed manner in which Washington treats Tokyo, there's also a recognition that Japan lives in a dangerous neighborhood, and that it benefits from U.S. security cooperation and protection," he said.

Elections for Japan's upper house of parliament are scheduled for July.  Polls show Mr. Hatoyama's approval rating has plunged this year, and political analysts say his shift on Futenma could further damage his party's chances in the election.


You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid