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Hatoyama: ‘My Futenma plan will be effective’

Date Posted: 2010-04-09

Japan’s Prime Minister says he’s ready to “risk my life to get results” on a Futenma relocation plan, even if it means the end of his political career.

Yukio Hatoyama says he’ll have the Futenma matter resolved by the end of May, as promised, telling the Japan Diet his plan is going to be even better than the deal struck between the U.S. and Japan in May 2006. “As the person who will be going through tough negotiations with the United States,” he says, “I do not have any thoughts about failing.”

The Prime Minister’s playing coy about what his plan will entail, but talk within his Democratic Party of Japan remain strong that he’ll shift Futenma facilities to White Beach, while continuing to construct a heliport at Camp Schwab. The original plan by the Liberal Democratic Party and the U.S. in 2006 called for building the replacement airfield at Henoko, with two V-shape 1,500-meter runways built on reclaimed land in Oura Bay.

The current LDP President, Sadakazu Tanigaki, is pressing Hatoyama to reveal his plans, but the Prime Minister says “the plan that I have in mind is as effective or possibly more effective” than the one developed by the U.S. and Japan nearly four years ago. Hatoyama chided Tanigaki over the LDP’s lack of progress in getting the Futenma issue resolved, saying “the dangers of Futenma should have been dealt with without delay, yet no progress was made” for more than a decade.

Hatoyama’s Foreign Minister, Katsuya Okada, has told American leaders during his U.S. visit that his boss’ plan is more feasible than earlier plans. Okada is remaining upbeat that the U.S. will show interest in negotiating the new plans. U.S. officials have been repeatedly saying they’re still convinced the best plan is the current relocation plan that calls for moving the controversial Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan City to the less populated northern Okinawa Henoko district.

Okada has discussed alternative airfield locations with Robert Gates, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, during the visit. The Foreign Minister is to discuss the entire Futenma issue with Prime Minister Hatoyama when he returns home to Tokyo tomorrow. Gates has told Okada that any changes in the existing agreement will require Japan to gain support from local Okinawans before America will even consider such changes.

America’s Secretary of State, for her part, continues to say the existing Japan-U.S. agreement is “preferable” to any others being bantered about, but does say she’s “ready to consider” possible alternatives. Hillary Rodham Clinton say “We are committed to the defense of Japan, and we hold a view as to what is the most effective way to pursue and implement that.” She noted, though, that “of course we are going to continue to listen to and consult with the Japanese government.” Clinton’s remarks came a day after she met with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada while at the G-8 Conference in Quebec. Okada had told Clinton about Tokyo’s plans, but later told reporters he’s concerned the alternative proposals, while possible, will lead to an “extremely tough road” between Japan and America.

Okinawa’s governor has been taking in all the talks with a jaundiced eye, repeating his believe “People of Okinawa strongly wish Futenma be transferred out of the prefecture, a move that is gaining momentum.” Hirokazu Nakaima has met with Japan’s Defense Minister this week to continue arguing against keeping Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture. Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa listened as the governor said moving Futenma to another Okinawa location would be “difficult” given the mindset of local residents.

“I told the minister there is a difference in the mood between Tokyo and Okinawa,” Nakaima says. He also echoed concerns of Okinawans that building a new airfield off the coast of White Beach is no more an option than building it near Henoko.


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