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DPJ tones down anti-U.S. positions

Date Posted: 2009-07-30

The controversial relocation of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station is not in the Democratic Party of Japan’s new platform. Neither is overhaul of the Status of Forces Agreement or an end to the use of Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces in international actions.

The 11-year-old Democratic Party of Japan is challenging the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for control of Japan’s government, and is widely expected to depose Prime Minister Taro Aso’s administration in August elections. Preparing for the August 30th elections in the Diet, the DPJ has set its Manifesto that spells out issues of importance of the party.

Missing from the party platform is any reference to relocating Futenma outside Okinawa, a demand the DPJ has been discussing for weeks. Party officials say the plan was stripped away because of its controversy, and because they didn’t believe there’s any chance of it happening. The current Minister of Self Defense Forces thought the move was a good one, noting “they are taking the problem from a realistic point of view, and know they can’t make such big time changes.”

Okinawa Prefecture officials note “we knew they couldn’t put Futenma’s move outside Okinawa in the manifesto”, but local Okinawa DPJ leaders are continuing to press the party to include it, noting the Futenma issue has been part of the Okinawa Vision 2008. “We don’t want the Okinawa people to become distrustful of us,” said one local DPJ leader, “because our party opinion shifted slightly.” A Ryukyu University professor says “Okinawa’s problems for the central Tokyo government are low in the order of priority, so they didn’t need to include Futenma, and it doesn’t have much effect on the nationwide voting districts.”

The DPJ manifesto also backed off its demands Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Forces withdraw from refueling operations in the Indian Ocean, and use of Japanese ships in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. The DPJ also scaled back rhetoric on revamping the Status of Forces Agreement between Japan and the United States, now adopting a position simply calling for revisions, and also for a review of the planned realignment of American troops in the country.

The August 30th elections are expected to turn the LDP out of power for the first time in more than five decades, paving the way for the Democratic Party of Japan to try moving the central government in new directions. A key element is the manifesto’s Foreign Relations section statements committing to “build close and equal relations with the U.S. as the foundation of Japan’s foreign policy.” Gone are the often bellicose statements and demands for U.S. troops to leave Japan, and for Japan to spend less in supporting the American military presence.

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