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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hatoyama, at Tsushima-maru Memorial Museum 鳩山首相、対馬丸記念館にて

Prime Minister Hatoyama held a press conference concluding his day visit to Okinawa, in which he formally announced that the government is planning to build a replacement base in Henoko (see news report below).

The press conference was held at Tsushima-maru Memorial Museum, which commemorates the 1,418 victims of Tsushima-maru, the Japanese cargo/passenger ship that was attacked by USS Bowfin on the way from Okinawa to Kagoshima on August 22, 1944. More than a half of the victims were school children who were evacuating Okinawa, as the island was expected to be the next battlefield after the fall of Saipan in July 1944.

Here is a part of the poem on the website of the Museum "To You, Who Live Now."

We were born about 60 years ago
when Okinawa was becoming a battle ground.

As we were evacuating to Kyushu,
our ship was torpedoed by an American submarine and sank.

We were thrown into the sea and the majority lost their lives.
We are still at the bottom of the sea which entombs us.

Why did we have to die?
Did we do anything wrong?

What did Hatoyama, who spoke about his "policies for protecting life(命を守る政治)" at the Diet opening session in January, say yesterday in the presence of the spirits the dead children of Tsushima-maru?

"I have put my heart and soul into the consideration of this issue among the reality of security concerns. I try to understand the feelings that Okinawan people have had for all these years amid this history. I also want to seek understanding of Okinawan people. I am aware of the weight of my word 'kengai' (the pre-election pledge to move Futenma outside of the prefecture) which gave hope to Okinawans. I know there is criticism that our plan has gone back to the previous LDP plan. About that, I would like to sincerely apologize. It will be different from the existing plan, but the plan has to be off the shore of Henoko. I want to explain to the people of Okinawa so that they understand.

I am aware of the challenge that the Okinawan economy is facing, and the fact that it is related to the existence of military bases. I would like to hear opinions of the business people, and the government will provide support. It is an economic issue and not about the relocation issue. It is not about a policy of 'candy and whip (carrot and stick).'

I also understand the concern that measures for reduction of base burden should be separate from the relocation issue. The previous administration could not carry through these measures. I would like you to think of them (relocation and burden reduction) as a package. We are actively engaging the United States in negotiations. "

In a nutshell, Hatoyama said, "I am sorry I broke my promise, but we are building a base in Henoko. The government will provide subsidies as compensation. In return of the new base, the government will negotiate with the U.S. some measures for easing the burden of Okinawans."

DPJ/Obama alliance is about to do what LDP/Bush and all the other past Japan/US leaders have always done in the post-war period of Okinawa: to perpetuate the US military bases in Okinawa and their harms. Okinawa's hope for finally starting to reduce the bases under the new administration is now officially severed. Considering the overwhelming popular opposition within Okinawa, Hatoyama's visit is a declaration of war from the two governments against Okinawans.

Shorly after the Nago mayoral election, a government official was reported as saying that building a base in Henoko, where protesters' persistence has prevailed for more than a decade, would duplicate the experience of Narita. The Narita Airport struggle, which arose from the compulsory expropriation of local farmers' land, resulted in the loss of three police officers and hundreds injured and arrested.

Is another bloody battle of Okinawa our answer to the message from Tsushimamaru children entombed at the sea bottom? Is another base over the pristine ocean of Henoko?


The two governments must withdraw from the plan to build another base in Okinawa.

Amid the depressing situation, I was encouraged by this remark by Mark Selden, coordinator of Japan Focus.

"It seems to me that an important part of our work is to make clear that, even as DPJ moves to embrace the original Henoko plan, and as it finds ways to buy a measure of local support, strong opposition remains, and it is that opposition that has stymied the base plan for many years. It can continue to do so, particularly if we can build international support for it in the context of recognizing both the heavy burden that Okinawa has borne, and a wider anti-base campaign."


(See comments to this blog post too.)

  • Hatoyama apologizes for plan to move Futenma base within Okinawa
    Sunday 23rd May, 02:30 PM JST

    Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama unveiled Sunday for the first time his government’s plan to relocate a U.S. Marine base within Okinawa and apologized for his failure to make good on his earlier vow to move the military facility outside the prefecture.

    ‘‘We came to the conclusion that we have to ask local residents to accept the base relocation to an area near the Henoko district’’ in Nago, Okinawa, the premier told Okinawa Gov Hirokazu Nakaima in their second meeting this month, open to the press, at the Okinawa prefectural government office.

    He said the relocation within the prefecture was a ‘‘heartbreaking’’ decision to achieve the return of land occupied by the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to locals and extended his ‘‘heartfelt apology for causing much confusion’’ among Okinawans in the process of reaching that conclusion.

    Nakaima expressed his ‘‘extreme regret’’ over the government’s decision and said he considers it ‘‘extremely difficult’’ to go ahead with the plan, because expectations had been growing among local residents that Hatoyama would try to transfer functions of Futenma out of the prefecture.

    ‘‘The gap between people’s expectations (and the latest government decision) is huge. I expect the premier to take time to offer further explanations and work out a solution that would satisfy us,’’ the governor told Hatoyama.

    Nakaima also told reporters later he feels the premier has ‘‘betrayed’’ Okinawa residents.

    In the meeting, Hatoyama also said he will ask other Japanese prefectures at a meeting of governors Thursday to accept some of the U.S. military drills currently conducted in Okinawa.

    The premier said the government has given up on the plan to transfer Futenma’s heliport functions out of Okinawa due to ‘‘remaining uncertainties in East Asia,’’ especially on the Korean Peninsula.

    ‘‘As prime minister, I have to say we cannot allow the situation in which deterrence provided by the U.S. forces in Japan will diminish,’’ he said.

    Hatoyama later told reporters the government will try to continue negotiations with the United States to implement measures to ease base-hosting burdens on Okinawa beyond his self-imposed deadline of May 31 for settling the issue.

    The talks were held during Hatoyama’s second visit this month to Okinawa in a last-minute attempt to gain the understanding of local people before May 31. He last visited the prefecture on May 4.

    Japan and the United States broadly agreed Saturday on a fresh accord expected to be announced May 28 which effectively states the Futenma facility in the populous city of Ginowan will be moved to land to be created through filling in the sea near the Marines’ Camp Schwab at Cape Henoko in Nago, sources close to the matter said.

    The fresh agreement is effectively on par with an existing relocation plan under a 2006 Japan-U.S. accord.

    Nakaima told reporters of his displeasure at the government’s attitude in offering explanations to Okinawa after reaching an accord with Washington.

    Local protesters staged a rally outside of the prefectural government office, calling on Hatoyama to give up the plan to relocate the base within the prefecture. Many of them held up a card bearing a Chinese character for ‘‘anger.’‘

    During his one-day trip, the premier also met with Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine and 11 other local municipality heads in Nago. During the talks with Hatoyama, Inamine expressed his ‘‘firm opposition’’ to the Futemma relocation plan to his city, saying he ‘‘cannot accept it at all.’‘

    Later in the day, Hatoyama held talks with local business representatives to discuss the base relocation and measures to invigorate the local economy.

    In Fukuoka, Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, told reporters she is against the plan unveiled by the premier to move the Futemma facility to Nago. The SDP is a coalition partner of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan led by Hatoyama.

    Okinawa hosts about 75% of the land area used for U.S. military facilities in Japan and half of the roughly 50,000 U.S. service personnel in the country.

    Before coming to power, the premier had pledged during an election campaign last summer that he would seek to move Futenma functions out of Okinawa altogether to ease the prefecture’s base-hosting burdens, such as noise pollution and risks of accidents and crimes associated with the U.S. military presence. Sunday’s decision is likely to further erode his grip on power.

    Hatoyama has seen his popularity ratings plunge in recent months?as voters increasingly are disenchanted with his failure to act on a number of campaign pledges, including the Futenma issue as well as promises for toll-free highways and cash payments for babies.

    His biggest political ally, Ichiro Ozawa, the head of Hatoyama’s Democratic Party, has been the target of allegations involving campaign fund abuse, although Ozawa has denied any wrongdoing and Japanese prosecutors have repeatedly said that they will not charge him.

    But the failure to appease the people of Okinawa is likely to be Hatoyama’s biggest problem as Japan heads into nationwide elections, which must be held sometime in July or close to that time.

    Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said that he discussed Futenma plans with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, while she was in Tokyo on Friday.


  1. One positive news to share.

    Hatoyama met with Okinawa's business leaders on Sunday afternoon.

    Having been told about Hatoyama's meeting with Nakaima, Chinen Eiji, the chairman of the council of Okinawa's economic organizations, cancelled their plan to report to Hatoyama about the current economic situation of Okinawa. They feared that they would be shown by Hatoyama proposals for
    the "economic development" measures, subsidies in return of hosting a new base in Okinawa. By cancelling the report, they wanted to make it clear that they would not accept any "carrot and stick" policies from the central government. At the beginning of the meeting, Chinen made
    sure that the topic of the meeting would be stricly about the base issue. About this "refusal to report," Goya Morimasa, president of the prefecture's construction industry explained, "we do not want to be a sordid organization by selling out Okinawan's people's suffering." Kokuba Koichi, another business leader said, "I was expecting that
    Hatoyama would come up with some subsidy measures. The fact that there was none itself is news."

    I am sure there are differing interests, but it is great to know that the Okinawa's industry leaders showed a united front and maintained their integrity by refusing to hear anything about what economic benefits the government might offer in return of a base.


    ん制した格好だ。 「知事との懇談の様子を報道で見たが、経済問題をお話しす
    て、われわれとしても基地問題をどうすればいいのか検討させてほしい」。 懇
    至った経緯について述べる「説明会」の様相を呈した。 「報告拒否」について、
    「振興策なら沖縄担当大臣がいる。首相に話すのはそぐわない」と述べた。 経

  2. I have not come across any description of why Hatoyama chose to go to Mabuni no oka (Peace Memorial Park) to pay tribute to the war dead of the Battle of Okinawa on May 4 and Tsushima-maru memorial on May 23. I thought it was respectful and naturally expected of the state leader to
    visit those historical places in the middle of the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa. However, he failed to provide any meaning to either of the visits. That emptiness was disrespectful in my eyes. Okinawans are more aware than anybody else that civilians are the biggest target of any war, no matter which state performs those war crimes. Many in Okinawa today carry deep sense of guilt that they are allowing troops leaving their own home land to kill civilians in other countries, though it is totally not their fault. Hatoyama should have recognized this deeper understanding of military presence by Okinawans by being at those historical places, but of course that would undermine his rationale for keeping Marines in Okinawa for "deterrence." So it makes these visits all hypocritical and meaningless political gestures.

  3. And the government official -was he threatening another Narita airport showdown, or was he fearing this would result?

    PLEASE...we need letters to the papers (all of them, in English and Japanese). There are so few letters from people which put some of the ideas presented on this blog forward. The fact that Hatoyama threatens Japanese democracy, that imperial America in concert with munitions makers is treating Japan like its colonial subject in order to wage permanent war, these are some ideas that need to be gotten out to people who do not read this blog or Japan Focus.

  4. David Rothauser9:47 pm

    It is outrageous what Hatoyama has done in Okinawa. He has lied to and deceived the Okinawan people. They can no longer trust him. Obama is doing what Bush did by extending the war in Afghanistan - after he made campaign promises to end the war. I have written every day to the Japan Times about the situation in Okinawa. When the people can no longer trust their president and their prime minister, it is a signal that democracy is failing.

    It is clear that Okinawan citizens want American military out of Okinawa. America cannot provide deterrence against a nuclear attack. The world knows this.  Japan is strong enough to defend herself. The real reason that America won't move and that Hatoyama follows America's lead is money. There is too much money tied to U.S. - Japan relations for them to change their policy regarding Okinawa. Only consistent pressure and publicity from the people will effect positive change in Okinawa.  Okinawans must not give up - and we must continue to fight for their cause, which in the long term is our cause too.

  5. As I read day-to-day the agony of Okinawan citizens in their decades long struggle to free themselves from the enforced yoke of the American military, I am brought back to the play and the movie of the same title, "The Teahouse of the August Moon," by John Patrick.
    It is a comedy about the process of the Americanization of Japanese citizens on the island of Okinawa during the American Occupation of Japan following World War II.
    Teahouse of the August Moon concerns the clash of cultures that results from the American Occupation of Japan, Much of the comedy derives from the inability of American military personnel to understand local culture and tradition. It is often considered insensitive to use comedy in telling a serious story, yet in this play the comedy underscores the near tragic situation in Okinawa. The play also brings out the persistent drive, imagination and resourcefulness of Okinawan people to take matters into their own hands.

    In the opening scene of the play, Sakini, an Okinawan interpreter for the U.S. military, puts things into perspective.
    SAKINI: "Lovely ladies, kind gentlemen...history of Okinawa reveal distinguished record of conquerors. We have honor to be sugjugated in 14th Century by Chinese pirates, in 16th Century by English missionaries, in 18th Century by Japanese warlords and in 20th Century by American Marines. Okinawa very fortunate. Culture brought to us....not have to leave home for it...But Okinawans most eager to be educated by conquerors...not easy to learn. Sometimes painful. But pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable. So...We tell little story to demonstrate splendid example of benevolent assimilation of democracy by Okinawa."

    Today, 57 years later, Okinawans are fighting the same battle and by all appearances, just as they did in the play, they are winning.