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2010年5月14日 (金)

社説:「5月決着」断念 首相は責任をどう取る

(Mainichi Japan) May 14, 2010
After endless empty promises, Hatoyama must thoroughly explain policy on Futenma relocation
社説:「5月決着」断念 首相は責任をどう取る

Is it acceptable for a prime minister to make promises so lightly? We have seen promise after promise being broken on the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama claimed that he would "do as much as he can" regarding his self-imposed and oft-repeated deadline to settle the Futenma issue by the end of May. He added, however, that "if there is a need to push the issue back to June or later, I want to make an effort then," effectively suggesting that he has given up on his own deadline.

The Futenma relocation has experienced numerous delays from the start. Hatoyama initially indicated to U.S. President Barack Obama that a decision on the issue would be made by the end of last year, and when that proved impossible, Hatoyama declared that we would see an end to the confusion by the end of May this year. He postponed a late-March decision on a government proposal, promised Obama that a resolution would be reached by late May, and told the public that the "resolution" he promised implied an agreement among the U.S. government, the site the base would be relocated to, and the ruling coalition.

But now there's going to be another delay.

Hatoyama kept changing his mind about the relocation site. He pledged during his Lower House election campaign last year that he would, "at the very least," relocate the base outside of Okinawa Prefecture, and continued to emphasize this intention well into this year. This month, however, claiming that he came to understand that a base in Okinawa was necessary as he "learned more about deterrence," he reversed course, seeking relocation within the prefecture. His earlier vow not to transfer the base to Henoko in Okinawa's Nago City -- where the Japanese and U.S. governments decided to move the base in 1996 -- was merely proven to be an empty promise.

The biggest concern is that Futenma will remain in Ginowan, where it is currently located, and the safety risks and noise that local residents face every day will go unresolved. The elimination of these problems is the starting point for relocation, but a solution is nowhere in sight.

During bilateral working-level talks, Japanese officials suggested a revision to the current plan, in which Futenma would be relocated to the Henoko area, where a Quick Installment Platform (QIP) method would be employed to construct a runway. U.S. officials, meanwhile, appreciated the Japanese government's reconsideration of the plan to relocate to Henoko, but expressed reservations about the QIP method. With the city of Nago refusing to host the relocation, the likelihood that the current use of Futenma in Ginowan will continue has increased. This, in turn, implies a collapse of the preconditions for the transfer of 8,000 Marines to Guam.

The Japanese government is currently considering measures to counter the burden of U.S. military bases on Okinawa Prefecture, including a partial transfer of Futenma Air Station functions to Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, the dispersal of U.S. Marine training sessions to various Self-Defense Force bases, and environmental countermeasures against soil contamination. Providing relief to overburdened Okinawa is a must. But the prospects of Tokunoshima Island or any other location agreeing to host a base are grim.

The main cause of the numerous delays and confusion lies in the lack of Hatoyama's problem-solving capabilities. He has wasted the past eight months, repeatedly advocating base relocation out of Okinawa without engaging in serious deliberation, and exhibiting no signs of leadership. Today, Hatoyama's words carry the weight of a mere feather. He bears a heavy responsibility for breaking his own promises and increasing the public's distrust of politics.

Japan's five opposition parties are seeking an intensive deliberation on the Futenma issue in the budgetary committee meetings of both legislative houses. Hatoyama must comply with this appeal, and provide the public with a clear-cut explanation on the current situation and the government's policy on the Futenma relocation issue, the deterrence of U.S. military forces in Japan, and his own responsibility for the whole fiasco.

毎日新聞 2010年5月14日 2時31分


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