Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 15:42 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 15:42 | SYDNEY

Fixing Futenma


Malcolm Cook

9 March 2010 10:33


It's well known that the proposed Futenma Marine Air Station relocation is causing problems in the US-Japan alliance. The photo above, courtesy of Wikipedia, shows just why it needs to be moved.

Recently, six developments in Japan's newly dynamic politics suggest this hot button issue has a better chance of being solved, putting the crucial alliance relationship back on firmer ground:

  1. The DPJ may no longer need to rely on the Social Democratic Party of Japan in the Upper House, as the DPJ may have been able to convince enough other Upper House members to cross the floor and join them.
  2. The Social Democrats themselves are softening their 'all US bases out of Japan' rhetoric and are willing to consider alternate sites for Futenma.
  3. In line with Prime Minister Hatoyama's pledge to solve the Futenma issue by May, his new Government is actively considering this relocation plan.
  4. The DPJ's poll ratings across Japan are plummeting fast on the back of corruption scandals and discomfort over the Government's destabilising of the alliance with the US. This may make the DPJ more willing to push against local opposition to relocation plans within Okinawa.
  5. The heaviest of the DPJ heavyweights, Ozawa Ichiro, has been one of the loudest voices against relocation. However, his chances of replacing Hatoyama have been seriously damaged by corruption scandals. Nearly 80% of people polled by Japan's leading newspaper, Yomiuri Shinbum, want Ozawa to resign. Solving Futenma could provide Hatoyama a nationally popular way to prove that he is not under Ozawa's thumb.
  6. So far, the focus on Futenma has greatly limited public discussion and criticism in Japan of the escalating relocation costs from Japan to Guam, initially estimated at over US$6 billion.