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SDP threatens coalition pullout over Futenma

Date Posted: 2009-12-11

Mizuho Fukushima was given a fourth term as leader of the Social Democratic Party, only 24 hours after she threatened to pull the tiny party out of the fragile ruling coalition if it didn’t remove Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Okinawa.

The fiery 53-year-old party leader, who also serves as Consumer Affairs Minister in Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government, has promised “we will make every effort” to remove the burden Okinawans carry by hosting the large number of American military units. She’s told Hatoyama she’ll pull her five seats out of the coalition, enough to shake the coalition’s foundation. “If this Cabinet decides to build a base over the sea in the coastal area of Henoko,” she is quoted as saying, “the SDP and I will have to make a grave decision,” suggesting she’ll withdraw from the coalition if it presses ahead with the 2006 U.S.-Japan pact. That agreement stipulates Futenma will be relocated to northern Okinawa’s Henoko district, part of Nago City. That realignment would require two V-shape runways to be built in Oura Bay, a move Fukushima opposes on environmental grounds.

She’s already threatening to place advertisements in U.S. newspapers opposing the plan, and also promises to work with American environmental organizations to preserve the coastal area’s wildlife. Kantoku Teruya, a SDP Lower House member who had intended on challenging Fukushima for the president’s position and was backed by the All Japan Garrison Workers Union in Okinawa, backed out after Fukushima assured him of the party’s intent to oppose the realignment. Fukushima then won her fourth term without it even going to a vote.

A Miyazaki Prefecture native, Fukushima is a University of Tokyo graduate who specializes in humans rights issues. She won her Upper House SDP seat in 1998. She took over the party reins from Takao Doi in 2003. Fukushima is pledging to double the size of her party’s representation in the Diet in the coming years.

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