Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jun Okumura responds to my comment on Futenma

On May 4, Mr. Okumura finally responded to my inquiry about Futenma.

If I'm wrong, I apologize.

Apology accepted. A word of advice. Be careful about making accusations that you cannot support with any evidence. It is my experience that such acts reveal far more about the accuser than the accused. There’s an old Japanese saying, Onore wo motte hito wo hakaru (You measure others with yourself as the yardstick). .

With regard to the US bases in Okinawa, I’m not sure exactly why the PDJ decided to make that stand on the 2006 Japan-US agreement, but it certainly was convenient in drawing the SDP into the coalition for the elections. It also must have helped in Okinawa. However, the DPJ—or Hatotyama at least—seems to have underestimated the geopolitical and technical difficulties of negotiating a complete move out of Okinawa while retaining US services with regard to the nuclear umbrella and other deterrent services. Personally, I think that the existing arrangement made sense—Nago was one of the few places in Okinawa that has a positive relationship with the US military that is similar to that of the mainland. There’s now a glimmer of hope, I think, for the prime minister that the Tokunoshima authorities, if not a majority of the people of Tokunoshima, will eventually accept the helicopter base. But it will take time, be expensive—pay off for yet another group of local governments. Nago may come around some day—never say never where money is involved—but this will take much more time than Tokunoshima, if and when it happens. Finally, Hatoyama needs the consent of the US side, which they will give only if and when they have confidence that he can make the deal stick, even if, a big if, they see it as operationally viable. And the Obama administration seems to be resigned to remaining in Futenma for the foreseeable future if its actions are any indication.

All that, just for a very modest change from the 2006 agreement from the Okinawan perspective—unless you’re a dugong. It’s a huge waste of political capital. Note also that the Chinese authorities aren’t making it any easier for Hatoyama to play hardball with either, with their probing, most recently by one of their “research” vessels.
Apparently, China was threatening Japan because China didn’t want the truth known any more than Europe or America wanted the truth known.


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