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Prime Minister accused of base issue flip-flop

Date Posted: 2010-03-17

Politicians are verbally taking the Prime Minister to task for making promises to the U.S. Ambassador to Japan about how the government would ultimately deal with the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Station issue.

Diplomatic sources are whispering scolding words against Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama for telling Ambassador John Roos last December that his administration and Japan would ultimately accept the May 2006 pact made by a previous government on moving Futenma from Ginowan City to Camp Schwab in Nago City’s Henoko district. The sources are saying the Prime Minister’s actions and ‘verbal pledge’ are now causing a strain in bilateral relations with the United States.

The unnamed diplomatic sources say Hatoyama’s assurances to Roos came after the U.S. Ambassador had met with Japanese cabinet ministers who described conflicting scenarios about where the government was going with the Futenma issue. Hatoyama was responding and clarifying remarks made by Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, and Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Seiji Maehara. Maehara is also the liaison for Okinawa affairs.

Okada had told the American ambassador he’d support the Henoko plan, but patience was needed because of the political issues. Kitazawa told Roos the opposite, that the Henoko plan was out of the picture and that Tokyo was studying new relocation options. Maehara, at the same session, reassured Roos all was on track to stick with the plan agreed to in May 2006. Hatoyama met with Roos later the same day, and as that meeting concluded, everyone believed the Prime Minister was convinced the Henoko plan was alive and well. Hours later, Hatoyama announced he’d withhold any decision until this Spring.

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