Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 07:37 | SYDNEY
Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 07:37 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Fixing Futenma


Sam Roggeveen


9 March 2010 15:14

Michael Cucek of Shisaku blog responds to Malcolm Cook. A brief comment from me follows:

Nearly every point made in today's post by Mr. Malcolm Cook regarding the Futenma move is either misleading or incorrect.

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.' This is not a potentiality, this is a fact. The DPJ-led caucus in the House of Councillors has 122 members. You can look it up.

2. 'The Social Democrats themselves are softening their "all US bases out of Japan" rhetoric and are willing to consider alternate sites for Futenma.'

(a) The Socialists do not have an 'all bases out of Japan' stance. It is not in the party policy manifesto. None of the party's principal members asks for such. 

(b) Of the three parties in the coalition, the Socialists have been the most active in researching and proposing alternate Japan sites for the Futenma base. It is the DPJ that has remained inert.

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'. Mr Hatoyama has had only the one cabinet. Calling it 'new' is superfluous...and somewhat demeaning.

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.'

(a) All that has been exposed so far is improper accounting of the PM's and Ozawa Ichiro's own family money. Unless the author is suggesting that the PM and the DPJ secretary-general are bribing themselves to vote a certain way, there has been no proof of the existence of corruption under the common understanding of the term.

(b) The destabilisation of the relationship with the US is popular, up to a point. Opinion polls find the public supportive of the government's attempts to renegotiate the 2006 Japan-US base relocation agreement so as to lessen the impact of the US military's presence on Okinawa. What the public has found annoying has been the prime minister's dilly-dallying over the issue.

(c) The fall in the DPJ's popularity makes it less likely, not more, that the government will feel confident in reneging on the prime minister's pledge to move the Futenma base outside of 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.'

(a) Ozawa has no wish or hope of replacing Hatoyama. It is not a part of anyone's game plan.

(b) Hatoyama is the one who made the pledge to move the Futenma base out of Okinawa. His acquiescing to a plan that keeps the Marines on the island is damaging to him. Furthermore, many think the PM's credibility already burned beyond recognition. Opinion polls find only a few clinging to the illusion that he has the right stuff to be the country's leader.

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 estimated at over US$6 billion.'

(a) Not true. The debate over the costs of the relocation has been ongoing since at least 2006. One of the main reasons the public is supportive of the current government's pushback over the 2006 agreement is its hatred of the price tag the LDP-New Komeito coalition agreed to pay.

(b) The $6 billion is just Japan's share of the $10.27 billion to be spent on facilities construction on Guam. The public's concern is that the full costs of an implementation of the 2006 Agreement will be much, much higher.

A quick comment on point 3, which concerns an editing change that I introduced. Michael might be right that it stretches the definition of 'new' to refer to Hatoyama's Government that way, but it seemed to me an easy way to remind readers (who spend less time than Michael does thinking and reading about Japanese politics) that Japan had a change of government less than seven months ago. I really can't see how that is 'demeaning'.