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Cabinet Minister Mizuho Fukushima fired over Futenma decision

Date Posted: 2010-05-30

Consumer Affairs Minister Mizuho Fukushima has been fired by the Prime Minister after she refused to support a decision to relocate Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan City to a sparsely populated area in northern Okinawa.

Fukushima, who also is head of the Social Democratic Party, was adamantly opposed to the Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s agreement with the United States to keep the controversial base in Okinawa. She refused to sign a cabinet resolution endorsing the government’s policy announced by Washington and Tokyo earlier Friday. “The SDP and I will not betray Okinawa,” Fukushima told reporters after being sacked by the Prime Minister.

Holding his own news conference, Hatoyama said he “deeply regrets” having to remove Fukushima from her post, but said he’d failed to win her support. Fukushima’s ouster is the second dismissal of a Cabinet Minister. Yoshinobu Shimamura was canned in August 2005 by then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi because of Shimamura’s disagreements over privatizing Japan’s postal system. Within Hatoyama’s administration, Fukushima is the second to leave, but the first involuntarily. Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii resigned in January due to health issues.

Fukushima and the SDP have strongly opposed the plan to have Futenma’s replacement in Okinawa. She and her party have been adamant on their position. “I never imagined that the deals that began with Henoko would name it again,” she said.

The big question now is what the SDP will do. Earlier, Fukushima had threatened to pull her 10 Diet members out of the coalition with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. The DJP operates in tandem with the SDP and another junior coalition partner.

Yasumasa Shigeno, the SDP Secretary General, says his party will not make any hasty decisions about whether to withdraw from the coalition. Fukushima had in recent days been more vocal about stepping away. The expectation now is that the SDP will make a decision on staying or leaving the coalition when its party regional chapter chiefsf convene on Sunday.

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