AAP staff report
Tokyo, Japan (May 28, 2010) – Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama held a press conference last week to discuss the matters leading to the announcement that he intended to resign as Prime Minister. The resignation comes following an unpopular agreement with the United States to allow the Marine Corps Air Station to relocate to Futenma on the island of Okinawa.
U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley said in the Daily Press Briefing on June 2, that the U.S. respects the Japanese political process and Prime Minister Hatoyama’s decision.
“We will work closely with the Government of Japan and the next prime minister on a broad range of issues. And I think today the chief cabinet secretary stated that the Futenma agreement will be respected, given that it is a government-to-government agreement, and we share this expectation,” he said.
When asked if the executive agreement could stand after the resignation, with Japanese polls claim as much as 80 percent of the Okinawan people opposed to the U.S. military base relocation to Camp Schwab, Crawly said it remains politically sustainable from the perspective of a U.S.-Japan security alliance – underscored by current tensions in Northeast Asia.
“We think that the presence of U.S. forces in the region, including in Japan, is of tremendous importance and of value to both of our countries,” said Crawley.
He said the burden on the Japanese people is understandable and that the U.S. has pledged to minimize the impact of its presence on Okinawa.
Crowley said the prime minister in explaining the circumstances under which he resigned, would make clear the alliance is about more than the future of Futenma.
Parliament is scheduled to elect its new prime minister in July, and Crowley said the base issue was a very thorough review and should not be part of the election issue.
“Everyone went back over all of the details, and I think the Japanese Government came to reaffirm that this new plan, a modification of the plan that it inherited, was the best way forward,” he added.
Hatoyama’s remarks following the Cabinet decision on Futenma, were posted on the Prime Minister’s Web site.
Hatoyama said the decision was based on the rationale that Japan is at a major turning point and has entered an era of momentous change, in terms of domestic politics and foreign relations. He described the outcome as based on the collective wisdom of the Japanese, including a deepening of the Japan-US alliance and the pursuit of the East Asian community initiative.
He said that Okinawa constitutes .6 percent of Japanese land, yet bears the disproportionate burden of hosting 75 percent of U.S. (fifty thousand servicemen and women) and the Japanese military bases. He said the peace and security of Japan also brings dangerous noise to a densely populated urban area and makes this move a necessity.
Hatoyama quoted from the 1972 declaration of Japanese government on the reversion of Okinawa, “vowing to make Okinawa an island of peace and a new stage for economic and cultural exchanges between Japan and the Asian continent, Southeast Asia, and still beyond that, to the countries of the Pacific, as a way to comfort the souls of the many who lost their precious lives on Okinawan soil.”
He said 38 years have passed since this declaration and it is also the fiftieth anniversary of the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. He said upon examining whether a major shift could be brought about to tighten the Japan-U.S. relationship, he also saw the responsibility of his new government and the great expectations of the Japanese people and the obligations to Okinawans.
He considered whether the Futenma replacement facility could be moved outside Okinawa, or whether Tokunoshima, Nago or other regions in Japan could take on even some small part of Okinawa’s burden.
“This, however, was made difficult for me by the reality that elements of instability and uncertainty remain in Asia and the Pacific region,” he added, noting the tensions following the sinking of the Republic of Korea patrol vessel in March and other security considerations.
Hatoyama described the Cabinet decision as the first step, or even a half step, forward in comparing to the anticipated alleviation or elimination of the burden and the dangers faced by the Okinawan people. He said three entities: the local areas concerned, the ruling parties and the U.S., each must get behind the same plan by the end of May.
Hatoyama said that a phone call to President Barack Obama brought his agreement to this plan to deepen the Japan-US alliance in a way suited to the situation in the twenty-first century.
“I stressed my desire to have Japan and the US continue their cooperation in order to reduce the burden on Okinawa, and as a result, Japan and the US will be making efforts still further in this regard,” Hatoyama said. “Unfortunately, so far I believe I have not succeeded in garnering the understanding of the Okinawan people, which is the most important.”
After having reached the conclusion that relocation to a place outside Japan or outside Okinawa was not possible, Hatoyama said there was no choice but to consider the option of the vicinity of Henoko in Okinawa Prefecture. He said this decision meant not being able to keep his word on his original plan and apologized.
“This decision by no means leaves the current situation in Okinawa concerning US military bases unaddressed,” he said. “First of all, some training by the US military currently conducted in Okinawa will be transferred out of the prefecture, leading to concrete progress in alleviating the burden on Okinawa and removing danger.
To achieve this, he said it would be necessary to ask other local communities to allow training by the US forces. He had already asked prefecture governors to do this around Japan.
Hatoyama then introduced a new measure to reduce the burden on Okinawans based on this Japan-US agreement. It would allow the fishing industry and others to pass through the US military training area off the coast of the eastern part of the main island of Okinawa.
“We have also decided to address environmental issues surrounding the bases, aiming to reach a new agreement,” he added.