Friday, May 28, 2010

Hatoyama cabinet jolted after deal on Futenma?

Japan and the United States reached a fresh accord Friday on the relocation of a key U.S. Marine base in Okinawa that basically endorsed an existing 2006 pact to move the facility within the prefecture, ending a bilateral row that has put the government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in danger.

After the Japanese government spent eight months reviewing the previous pact, which sets 2014 as the deadline for the relocation, the two countries agreed to ensure that the ongoing environmental impact assessment procedures and the construction of the replacement facility will be "completed without significant delay."

SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima

Speculation was high in Tokyo that the current coalition with Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima could explode! Prime Minister Hatoyama fired the SDP leader of her position as consumer affairs minister, and will have this duty assumed by his chief cabinet secretary Hirano, because she refused to accept the agreement. "I couldn't betray the Okinawans," she said. "I cannot be a part of an agreement that imposes a burden on Okinawans."

Now how will prime minister Hatoyama win the July 11th Upper House election in constituencies where he has no strong following after dismissing Fukushima?

Up to your calculator and which way the wind is blowing...

What the Japanese media say
The Mainichi Shimbun

"Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Mizuho Fukushima, a member of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's Cabinet, had opposed including references to Henoko in the joint statement. If she refuses to sign a Cabinet agreement, it is believed that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will consider dismissing her. Hatoyama refrained from holding a news conference immediately after the statement was issued, as government negotiations over the issue remain turbulent.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Fukushima said, "I never imagined that we would return to Henoko, so it's very disappointing." However, she indicated she would not resign from the Cabinet of her own accord. "I am not thinking of that at all," she said. On Friday the SDP held a meeting of party members in both houses of the Diet and agreed that Fukushima would not sign a Cabinet agreement based on the joint statement. Earlier, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano met with SDP Secretary General Yasumasa Shigeno and told him that an extraordinary Cabinet meeting would be held later in the day to confirm the government's policy on the issue.

On Friday morning, Hatoyama suggested that he would settle the relocation issue the same day, telling reporters, "We will present a conclusion today. This goes without saying." Fukushima, meanwhile, criticized the fact that the SDP had not been informed of the details of the joint statement in advance. "We're in a coalition government, so we should be informed of the details in advance. I would have liked to have been told," she told a news conference. Later, Fukushima told reporters that she had decided in a meeting of party officials not to sign any Cabinet agreement if the joint Japan-U.S. statement included references to relocating the Futenma base to the Henoko area.

Due to Fukushima's resistance, there is a strong view within the government that Hatoyama will have no option but to dismiss her from the Cabinet. In a news conference on Friday, Minister of Defense Toshimi Kitazawa suggested that Fukushima should leave the Cabinet if she refuses to sign an agreement. "Refusing to resign is an expression of distrust toward the prime minister. As she is a politician, it goes without saying that she should make her position clear before all this. If she stays in the Cabinet and retains her opposition, it will threaten the existence of the Cabinet."

Meanwhile, Shizuka Kamei, leader of the People's New Party, which also belongs to the ruling coalition, told reporters at the Diet, "In the end it's an issue that can't be solved without cooperation and understanding from people in Okinawa. It's a developing situation."" End of quotes, Mainichi Shimbun 29 May 2010

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