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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Former PM Hatoyama Interview: "Deterrence" was a "Pretext" to Justify Henoko Plan 鳩山元首相インタビュー:「抑止力は方便」

Former PM Hatoyama interviewed -
Photo from Ryukyu Shimpo
NEW: An expanded and complete version of Hatoyama interview translation and analysis is now posted on Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.

Hatoyama's Confession: The Myth of Deterrence and the Failure to Move a Marine Base Outside Okinawa


Former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio's interview with Kyodo News, Okinawa Taimusu and Ryukyu Shimpo revealed some answers to unanswered questions, particularly what Hatoyama meant by "deterrence" when he stressed the importance of the US Marines in Okinawa. He gave up the his election pledge of moving Futenma Air Station outside of Okinawa, instead of building a "replacement" base within the island already cluttered with US military bases, mere legacy of WWII and Cold War.

The answer was that he only used the word "deterrence" to justify the Henoko plan when he thought there was no other option available. It was purely an excuse; nothing substantial.

Here is a translation from the interview (translation and notes by PP, based on the text of the interview on Ryukyu Shimpo, Sunday February 13).

Interview: The Hatoyama revelations

Q: What did you have in mind when you called for Futenma to be relocated “at least out-of-Okinawa [elsewhere in Japan](kengai)” during the 2009 election?

Hatoyama: "In view of the reality of the excessive burden of the bases on Okinawa and in order to alleviate the suffering of the Okinawan people, the DPJ as a party had decided in its "Okinawa Vision” on “at least out-of-Okinawa”. It was not just Hatoyama bringing it up on his own initiative, but I raised the party’s core thinking with great expectations. It was not so much that I had a clear view of how to proceed, but I said that out of my sense of responsibility something had to be done.

Q. Why did the idea not prevail within the cabinet and within the party after you became Prime Minister?

Hatoyama: Amidst the difficulties following assumption of power, many realized it would not be easy and gave up. There was an overwhelming atmosphere within the government that it would be difficult to relocate Futenma outside of the prefecture, let alone outside Japan, based on the thinking within Defence and Foreign Affairs, and on the accumulation of events, and that atmosphere still remains. Such thinking prevailed within the Cabinet, with only myself and a few others wanting to move the base outside of Okinawa.

Q. Did you expect this to be a big issue?

Hatoyama: I was not expecting that it would be such a big matter as to become the reason for my resignation as Prime Minister.

Q. Why did you put a seal on the idea of a US-Japan security treaty without permanent [US] troop presence?

Hatoyama: I still have that belief. I used to call for it in the old DPJ, but unfortunately, once the DPJ took office, it was not able to win support. On the Futenma problem too, even though I did not use the actual expression “without permanent bases,” I wanted to lead things in that direction, so I often spoke of “outside Japan, or at least outside Okinawa.”

Q. Statements by your Cabinet ministers were all inconsistent.

Hatoyama: Although Okada (Katsuya), then Foreign Minister, said that we had not actually written “Futenma outside of Okinawa” in the party’s manifesto, I thought that, since we constituted the core of government and enjoyed overwhelming popular support, we should clearly articulate and implement the party’s vision. I wanted Okada to act on that vision.

Q. Why did you not form the Cabinet in such a way as to be able to realize your vision of a security Treaty "without permanent bases"? Why did you choose Kitazawa (Toshimi) as Defense Minister?

Hatoyama: Kitazawa was Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, and was supposed to have a stable vision for defense-related matters. Rather than appointing ministers on specific themes, we had lists of candidates, and placed the most suitable person in each position. Defense Minister Kitazawa’s challenge was how to transcend the Defense Ministry’s ways of thinking and to propose new ways of thinking. He should have put more effort into it.

Q. Was it the case that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence had cultures resistant to new thinking?

Hatoyama: Yes, such a culture was very strong. It seemed as if my ideas were scornfully dismissed. MOFA and MOD, while they should have been thinking through the base transfer issue with me, instead chose to give priority to what had been agreed with the US (a new base in Okinawa). Once, after summoning two senior members of these ministries to my residence and telling them that we would constitute a team to deal with this, stressing the importance of confidentiality, the matter was reported in the following day’s papers. I was greatly saddened. I did not know whom to trust. After much effort during the LDP time, the MOFA and MOD had come to a single solution – transfer within Okinawa, and saw no alternative. A determination to push things gradually in such a direction seemed to be at work. In dealing with the Americans, there was nothing for it but to trust them. When we reached the point where anything else was futile, I could go no further and I came to doubt my own strength.

Q. Did you have any allies?

Hatoyama: Then Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano was cooperative in exploring possibilities of Tokunoshima Island.11 I had at least one ally.

Q. Did you not consider appointing a secret mission to negotiate with the US on your behalf?

Hatoyama: Yes, and I almost had somebody for that purpose, but things were difficult.

Q. It sounded like something out of the blue when you came up with "deterrence" as a reason to build a replacement base in Okinawa.

Hatoyama: When Tokunoshima Island (in Kagoshima Prefecture) refused to host an alternative facility, we had no choice but to move it to Henoko, so I had to come up with a rationale to justify it. I didn't think the presence of Marines in Okinawa would work directly as deterrence against war, but without the Marines, the US military would not be able to function fully in terms of interoperability, and that would affect deterrence. As for the deterrent effect of the Marines themselves, you all think they are not a deterrent, and that is also my understanding. If you say it was a pretext, then it was a pretext. But I thought I could still use the word “deterrence” in a broader sense.

Q. Your statement during the meeting with President Obama drew much attention.12

Hatoyama: I said, "Trust me," because I believed that I would be able to work out a plan agreeable both to Okinawans and the US. I used those words, meaning to ask President Obama to trust me as a person. Last July (2010), I received a hand-written letter from President Obama that said, "You were faithful to your words." According to the media, I damaged US-Japan relations, but that is not true, at least it was not true as of July last year. I feel sorry that the current plan is not something that Okinawan people can understand. It is true that trust between the Japanese government and Okinawa was severely damaged, and for that I am really sorry. I regret it very much.

Q. At the end of 2009, had you not already given up on the idea of moving Futenma out of Okinawa?

Hatoyama: Even when I used the words “trust me,” the prospect of moving Futenma to another part of Japan was grim. Already then the understanding had been reached along the lines eventually announced on 28 May. I would be lying if I said that at that time (the end of 2009) I did not think about asking Okinawans to accept the plan to build a replacement base in Henoko as the inevitable option. However, while consulting with Okinawa Governor Nakaima (Hirokazu), I chose to delay the ultimate decision until May 2010, thinking that this plan would betray the Okinawan people and would not survive politically.

Q. Why May 2010?

Hatoyama: With the US expectation to settle the issue by the end of 2009, I could not postpone things for a whole year; the maximum would have been half a year. The budget bill would tie us up until March, and there was the circumstance involving SDP (Social Democratic Party).13 Having Futenma relocation as an election issue would have made it impossible to contest the Upper House election. I wanted to go to the US to negotiate directly (with President. Obama) in early May, but we (as a government) did not yet have a coherent alternative plan.

Q. Did the sinking of the South Korean warship (Cheonan) affect the decision (to go back to the Henoko plan)?

Hatoyama: The threat of North Korea was real to me then. It was an act of war in a way. That incident certainly worked as a lever to move the whole plan back to Henoko.

Q. What did you mean when you told us you had a “plan in mind”?14

Hatoyama: I used that phrase because I wanted to find a place for Futenma relocation on Tokunoshima Island. The US military eventually replied that part of the Marines’ training could be transferred to Tokunoshima, so the idea of “Tokunoshima” is preserved in the Japan-US agreement (of May 28).

Q. When did you make the final decision to go back to the Henoko plan?

Hatoyama: It was when I gave up on Tokunoshima. On April 28, I met with Tokuda Torao, former Diet member (from Tokunoshima) but I could not gain his support. The possibility of Tokunoshima was completely blocked from that point. I thought I would be able to solve the problem if Okinawa, together with the Japanese and US governments, were to form a consultative council and create a platform to discuss the government’s ideas. But when I met Governor Nakaima for the second time in May, he told me that he would not able to do it before the gubernatorial election (in November 2010). I gave up then, thinking there was no way to attain Okinawan understanding.

Q. What is your suggestion for future negotiations?

Hatoyama: Any replacement base should not be made permanent. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano and I had come to an understanding that we must not let the US military use this facility in perpetuity. Okinawa does not consent. In order to gain their understanding, there has to be some way to negotiate, for example to make this base temporary, even if such a condition was not included in the Japan-US agreement. Even if a relocation site was to be a certain distance away from Okinawa, so long as it is part of a single package (with the US military), it would work as a “deterrent.”

Q. What is your overall reflection?

Hatoyama: Our counterpart should have been the US, not Okinawa. I should have gone there first. I should have been more assertive, presenting my plan as the only possible plan. Mr. Obama himself was probably surrounded by voices that told him the only option was to hew to the status quo (the existing US/Japan agreement). Both Japan and the US lacked political leadership on this issue.



「抑止力は方便」断念理由後付け 鳩山前首相、普天間で証言
鳩山前首相一問一答 見通しなく「県外」発言
“抑止力は方便“鳩山氏に不信再び 県内関係者「地元で声聞いて」
「発言責任持って」県外執着も“人ごと” 鳩山氏「県民に申し訳ない」

名護や宜野湾 市民ら責任指摘
頓挫した県外の理念 徳之島拒否で窮地に

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