Political tremors in Tokyo – Hatoyama resigns


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s resignation after just eight months in office has triggered shock across Japan and raised new doubts about the country’s political stability. The fact that a U.S. military base figured centrally in his decision has also generated concerns about the damage to the crucial relationship with Washington under his government.

Hatoyama pointed to two factors in his decision. The first was his inability to fulfill his campaign promise to relocate the U.S. military’s Futenma Marine Air Station on Okinawa…

Perhaps more surprising was the role of a political scandal. In Hatoyama’s announcement, he also asked the party’s secretary general, Ichiro Ozawa, to resign with him…

Perhaps as important is the DPJ’s foreign and security policy vision. The U.S.-Japan alliance and the management of forty thousand U.S. troops in Japan created opportunity for opposition party critique of the old-fashioned LDP approach of solving problems behind closed doors. Public tolerance for this approach was growing thin, particularly in Okinawa where the bulk of U.S. forces are concentrated. In its rise to power, the DPJ took aim at some of these oversight practices. Likewise, it took aim at some of the allegations that “secret agreements” with Washington ran counter to government statements on nuclear weapons transit and other sensitive issues…

What remains to be seen is how the Democratic Party of Japan internalizes the lessons learned over the past eight months as Japan’s governing party and what the legacy of Hatoyama’s resignation will be. In Tokyo, there is also concern that the first effort to govern by the DPJ so badly bruised the bilateral relationship with Washington–particularly with President Barack Obama, a president that many think shared so much of the DPJ’s own goals.

The CFR doesn’t confront the Democratic Party’s unwillingness to address secret agreements, obvious and unpublished restrictions on Japan’s freedom to manage their own political life.

There isn’t any populist army marching on the streets of Japan calling in unison for an end to American governance over portions of foreign policy – other than that last election. But, that vote rejected a half-century of sidekick politics.

Wars of national liberation have been fought over as much.

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