Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

Black Friday

Posted in Current Events by bourdaghs on the May 28th, 2010

The aftershocks of the Hatoyama cabinet’s capitulation today on the relocation of U.S. bases in Okinawa will continue for some time. Social Democratic Party leader Fukushima Mizuho, who had been Minister of Consumer Affairs, was fired by Hatoyama this evening for refusing to sign the cabinet statement accepting the proposal to move the Futenma Air Force base from the center of Ginowan City (where it poses serious safety and enviornmental risks) to Henoko near the existing Camp Schwab. Hatoyama had pledged in the election campaign last year to revise that plan to lessen the burden on Okinawa, but has now reneged on that promise. The flip-flop has sent his support ratings down into territory last seen in the waning days of the George W. Bush presidency.

It’s a terrible decision–bad, of course, for the people of Okinawa, which comprises less than 1% of the territory of Japan yet hosts two-thirds of the American troops stationed in the nation. Bases take up 11% of the prefecture’s land, and after a half century of actual and virtual military occupation, people there are completely fed up and just want the bases shut down. But it’s also a terrible decision for Japan and the U.S. The attempt to continue the untenable status of Japan as an American client state will lead to a huge drain on the Japanese budget (Japan pays most of the cost of the U.S. bases located on its soil), to resurgent right-wing nationalism in Japan, and to further U.S. entanglement in neo-imperial imbroglios across East Asia. In the long term, this decision weakens the U .S.-Japan alliance, and it bolsters anti-American sentiment in Okinawa, Japan, and elsewhere.

The whole fiasco reminds me of the 1994-96 Murayama cabinet. After decades of conservative LDP rule, the Japan Socialist Party finally took over the reins of power–and its only significant accomplishment was to implement the regressive national sales tax proposal that the LDP had been unable to push through on its own. Hatoyama’s DJP cabinet seems to have repeated the favor, finishing up the dirty work to implement the unpopular relocation plan originally foisted by the LDP.

There are perhaps two silver linings in this dark cloud. First, the Social Democratic Party (the molehill that’s left of the JSP after that Murayama fiasco) has actually stood up for its principles and may perhaps start rebuilidng itself as a progressive voice in Japanese politics (provided, that is, it carries through with its threat to withdraw from the cabinet). Second, it should be increasingly clear to all now that what is needed is a long-term plan to close all U.S. bases in Okinawa. WWII is over, the Cold War is over, and the end of the American occupation of Okinawa is long overdue.

[Updated on 30 May 2010: At Japan Focus, Gavan McCormack has just published an important three-part article on the past fifty years of the U.S./Japan security relationship. You can read part one, including links to the remaining installments, here.)

2 Responses to 'Black Friday'

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  1. Terry Horikiri said,

    on May 31st, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Hi Prof Bourdaghs! It’s been a while. I hope everything is going well with you and your wife and Sonia and Walter.

    Hatoyama’s vague promise of “Zero Base” on Okinawa has finally bit him in the behind. I can not realistically foresee the SDP holding on to power much longer.

  2. bourdaghs said,

    on May 31st, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Hi, Terry: Thanks for visiting and commenting. I hope all is well with you. Best, MB