Japan’s Obama

“We Cannot Ask Them to Relocate the Base”

In August 2009 Hatoyama Yukio led the Japan’s Democratic Party to victory in the general election, ending more than a half-century of Liberal Democratic Party rule. (The cabinet of Socialist Party leader Murayama Tomiichi, which ruled from June 1994 to January 1996, was the product of a deal insuring that the most important posts would go to LDP members. The consequences of this deal, especially the Socialists’ abandonment of their opposition to the U.S. military alliance and the existence of the Japanese “Self-Defense Forces” in violation of the pacifist constitution, cost the party much support and they fared miserably in the next general election.) Since its establishment in 1955, the LDP had staunchly defended the defense alliance with the U.S. and the presence of U.S. military bases (all expenses paid by the host government). But those bases have not been popular in Japan.

On the very day that Japan regained its sovereignty (effective April 1952) with the signing of the San Francisco Treaty ending the state of war between Japan and the Allied Powers, Japan was forced to sign an agreement not only providing for tens of thousands of U.S. forces to remain in the country but even to suppress domestic uprisings. When the treaty came up for renewal in 1960, an estimated 16 million (17% of the population) took part in protests. Protests continued after LDP politicians, in a sneaky parliamentary maneuver in the dead of night, ratified the treaty. These were so intense that Japanese security forces advised President Eisenhower that they could not guarantee his safety during a planned state visit in order to sign the document.

The treaty (shorn of the provision about suppressing domestic uprisings) has been renewed regularly ever since. Polls in recent years suggest that ANPO (as it’s called in the Japanese acronym) has become accepted by the vast majority and that most Japanese believe U.S. bases “important” for regional security. (This represents, I think, a shikataganai or “nothing can be done about it” mentality, the feeling that it was Japan’s fate following wars of aggression to accept occupation and transformation. The fact that the country has prospered, in no small part due to U.S. war expenditures beginning with the Korean War, has weakened resistance to the treaty and the bases.

But most of the bases, and the bulk of the 33,000 U.S. troops in Japan, are stationed on the island of Okinawa. There are about 27,000 personnel, mostly Marines, and 22,000 family members. Military bases occupy 10% of the islands’s territory. Okinawans complain of lost land, incessant noise, the storage (to 1972) of U.S. nuclear weapons on the island (in violation of Japanese law), and GI crime. The reported U.S. military crime rate is higher here than anywhere else in the world; since 1972, 26,413 crimes and 456 accidents caused by U.S. military personnel have been reported. The brutal abduction and rape of a 12-year old girl by a seaman and two Marines in September 1995 fueled an already powerful movement to shut down the bases.

Many Okinawans not only dislike the U.S. presence but deeply resent the terms of their relationship with Tokyo. Until 1872 Okinawa was not part of Japan but an independent kingdom paying tribute to both Japan and China. Thereafter it was annexed by the newly-established Meiji state as its first act of colonization (Taiwan and Korea would follow in 1895 and 1910.) The Ryukyuan (Okinawan) language and Japanese are related but not mutually comprehensible, and there are cultural differences. Okinawans were treated like second-class citizens up to the Battle of Okinawa in the summer of 1945, when military authorities ordered the population to resist the invaders to the death. Up to 150,000 civilians were killed or committed suicide out of a population of 500,000.

Tokyo agreed in 1952 that “the United States will have the right to exercise all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction over the territory and inhabitants of [Okinawa], including their territorial waters.” This is also resented. Following mass campaigns and a parliamentary motion demanding return of the island, the U.S. returned Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty in 1972, but retaining the bases, now paid for by the Japanese. There was no military withdrawal, obviously, nor one ever planned.

Surely many Okinawans feel that (1) we never asked to be annexed by Japan; (2) we have met with discrimination at the hands of Japanese; (3) we took more than our share of punishment during the war for Japan’s aggression; and (4) we never asked for and don’t want these bases. There are, of course, those who make their livelihood from them, and are more positively disposed. But on April 27, more than 90,000 people (out of 1.4 million Okinawans) demanded that Futenma Marine Corps Air Station located in the center of Ginowan City be relocated off the island. (The U.S. and Japanese governments had agreed to remove it elsewhere on the island.) Many in the crowd called for the removal of the bases entirely.

Hatoyama’s Democrats won their victory last August in part because they pledged to press for the removal of Futenma from Okinawa, proposing its relocation to a smaller nearby island. They also demanded an end to the unpopular refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of the U.S. in Afghanistan and a more equal relationship with the U.S. “But” as Kenji Hall wrote in Bloomberg Businesweek, “on Nov. 13, after spending nearly an hour and a half in ‘densely packed’ discussions with President Barack Obama at the Prime Minister’s residence in Tokyo, the Japanese leader seemed a lot less combative. As for talking as equals, Hatoyama didn’t even get to raise the issue. ‘Even before I could say it, President Obama said that U.S.-Japan relations should be on an equal footing,’ he said as Obama stood by his side during a news conference televised live by public broadcaster NHK.”

Hatoyama’s popularity, 77% soon after the election and still 72% in late October, dipped to 50% in December, partly due to his apparent vacillation on the issue of an equal relationship. In January, the Democrats fulfilled their promise to end the eight-year refueling misson but offered $5 billion towards Afghan reconstruction to appease U.S. anger at the move. His popularity was then in the low 40s.

As recently as April, prior to the massive Okinawan demonstration, he declared, “It must never happen that we accept the existing plan [for Futenma relocation on Okinawa].” But this month he visited Okinawa, for his first time since becoming prime minister, announcing, “We must maintain the Japan-U.S. alliance as a deterrent force, and … we must ask Okinawa to bear some of that burden. It has become clear from our negotiations with the Americans that we cannot ask them to relocate the base to too far-flung a location.” In other words: We must obey the Americans, just as the LDP did for 54 years.

Hatoyama’s popularity is now down to around 20%. The Asahi Shinbun runs headlines such as “Weak Leadership” and “Hatoyama Strikes Out Again” referring to the Okinawa base issue. Far from being a breath of fresh air, he is more of the same. The U.S.-Japan relationship is not the only issue affecting his popularity; charges of corruption and mishandling of campaign funds, staples of Japanese politics and the nemesis of the LDP, also contribute. But this is probably the biggest issue.

The moral of the story? A change of parties in a U.S. client-state is unlikely to affect the bilateral relationship with the U.S., notwithstanding the popular will. De Gaulle could boot out the U.S. bases from France in 1966, but he is the exception to prove the rule. (He took action after U.S. efforts to supplant or even assassinate him due to his decision to grant Algeria independence, something Washington bitterly opposed, and wrangling over the role of France within NATO.) Hatoyama is no De Gaulle. Rather, in failing to stand up to Obama, he has become Japan’s Obama: a breaker of campaign promises, a capitulator, a pawn of the Pentagon, a tremendous disappointment to his supporters. But unlike the U.S. president, whose favorable ratings have only fallen from 68% in April 2009 to 44%, hovering around that figure all this year, Hatoyama’s appear to be in free-fall. Such is a lackey’s karma.

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu. Read other articles by Gary.

14 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on May 14th, 2010 at 9:30am #

    Meine damen und herren, noch eine wichtigkeit: planet is not growing larger nor richer, but producing more and more asocialists-sybarites by day.

    And asocialists want to live opulently as always before. This mean, moj tovarish i moja mamushka, some non-sybaritic people and peoples must go.

    Another self-evident- and whatever that animal may be?- truth: we lost our civilization k`s yrs ago; probably in mesopotamia, ca 8 k yrs ago. Yes, we were once civilized!

    Unfortunately, the disease traveled all the way to helsinki and oslo. Traveling northward, it first affected persia, caucasus, `stans and then spread amongst numerous germanic and slavic tribes.

    Indigenes of n. america have lost their virginity upon arrival of very sick people. To indigenes, these newcomers looked like they came from moon; and indigenes knelt before them.
    And the rest is history. But why all that, it is still a mystory. My wife says that actually we were here before buffalonians. She also says, that palestinians arrived in palestine in 2008! I think that makes sense! tnx

  2. MichaelKenny said on May 14th, 2010 at 9:31am #

    This is arrogant nonsense! Mr Leupp sneers at the Japanese PM for being a “lackey” and at Japan for being a “client state”, but a lackey of whom? A client state of whom? Of YOUR country, Mr Leupp! Of the government you and your fellow citizens elected! You allowed your country to become the bully it is and to acquire the power it has and when it misuses that power, as bullies inevitably do, all you do is sneer at the victim! You enabled the bully! The US refusal to leave its Okinawa bases, and the humiliation thus imposed on the Japanese people, like attacks on the EU and the euro, emanating from Wall St, which operates from the US and under the protection of the US government, are acts that you enabled, Mr Leupp! You are in no position to sneer at anyone! It is we, the victims of American bullying, whether in Japan, Europe or elsewhere, who are entitled to sneer at the utter failure of Americans to ensure the proper government of their own country. If Americans are unable to stop their own government’s misconduct or to cause it to regulate American entities so that they do not harm people in other countries, how can we in the rest of the world be expected to do it? When the US ceases to misbehave, or prevents individuals or bodies under its protection from misbehaving, then, and only then, can Americans sneer at the attempts we in the rest of the world make to defend ourselves. That goes for Japan, that goes for Greece, for Latvia, for Haiti, for Venezuela, for Iran, for the Chagos Islanders and anyone else on the long list of victims! You enabled, and continue to enable, this mess, Mr Leupp! You are ill-placed to sneer at its victims!

  3. MichaelKenny said on May 14th, 2010 at 10:17am #

    Forgive me coming back for a second “bite”, but I have long been curious about Bozh and why he/she posts gobbledygook. Yet, the German is perfect. Even down to knowing that words ending in “keit” are always feminine! And “tovarish”, “moja” (close to Russian “I would like”). And the some perfect English: “Yes, we were once civilized”. But “asocialists”. German? Russian? English? Could it be Israeli intelligence testing their e-mail interception keywords? Computers look for certain words but non-native speakers will make mistakes which the computer will miss if it is programmed to seek out only linguistically-correct forms. So they run nonsense words which are close to real words as a test just to see if their software flags them. It will be amusing to see if Bozh responds to this!

  4. hayate said on May 14th, 2010 at 10:35am #

    Decent piece from Leupp on Japanese quislingship. The israeloamerican oligarchs buy time with these quislings, but ultimately, in the end, when they lose, they take a harder hit. The 1979 Iranian revolution is a good example of this. The actions of these fascist/ziofascist oligarchs end up hurting american interests because they eventually wreck any friendship other country’s peoples have for americans. Having the usa a hated, cultural backwater may serve these fascist’s interests, but it serves no one else.

  5. bozh said on May 14th, 2010 at 11:37am #

    M. Kenney,
    I have shortened my name from bozhidar [male name] to Bozh to save time. It is a common name among croats and serbs. Other slavs., as far as know, don’t use it.
    I am not, i think, pure croat, but an admixture of slavs, illyrians [of which albanians are descendant], and roman pop.

    I, of course, cannot answer genralizations. I can only answer descriptive questions. Gobbledygook is a condemnation and such thus cab e discarded.
    Just point to a word, sentences which make no snese to u or not true then i wld gladly answer.

    I am not abusing u! Ur langauge uses and abuses u. Learn to use it, please. But, do u not not know the difference btwn a question and accusation or complaint?
    I think u do! And u are pulling me, as we croats say, by tongue!

    Btw, moy=my and moja also but the latter refering to a female. Thus we say moj tovarish and moja zhena [my wife or woman].

  6. kanomi said on May 14th, 2010 at 12:32pm #

    Get those goddamned Imperialist, nuclear blackmailing, rape factories out of Japan NOW!

  7. lamella said on May 14th, 2010 at 5:57pm #

    Bozh, I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say people very rarely have any idea what the f*ck you’re saying. Your English is so bad and your reasoning so convoluted that trying to make sense of your posts is a guaranteed ticket to a migraine. Do everyone a favor and either sign up for some ESL classes or quit posting. And yes, that’s a complaint, not a question.

    As for the article, it is very informative, but michaelkenny has a good point in remarking that the Japanese don’t bear all of the blame. It’s also we Americans and our out-of-control government that insists on bullying and threatening the world.

  8. Rehmat said on May 14th, 2010 at 7:13pm #

    “I try to keep people’s eyes on the Middle East, because the area is so essential to Japan,” Professor Yuriko Koike, former Japanese Environment Minister (2004-2006) and Defense Minister (2007). She was born on July 15, 1952 and graduated in 1976 from Cairo University (Egypt). She speaks Arabic and writes in Islamic calligraphy as hobby. Watch a video of her speech on the occasion of the establishment of the Sasakawa Middle East Islamic Fund below.


  9. denk said on May 14th, 2010 at 9:15pm #

    okinawa is a true crime story written and directed by the governments of both the United States and Japan.
    [ the chago island is a crime story directed by us/uk, never mind palestine, iraq , afpak etc.]

    One recent survey by a school teacher on Okinawa found a third of his female high school students had been sexually molested by U.S. soldiers, a violation U.S. base officers have often dismissed as ‘flirting, because boys will be boys.’

    yankee go home, say the okinawans

    they couldnt even get pass the local marine commandant lol

  10. bozh said on May 15th, 2010 at 8:13am #

    almost al asocialists [fascsists] are angered by what i say. Ur response proves that u understood much or all i have said.
    Nearly all ‘jews’ appear extremely angered by what i say. Almost all call me names! However, i don’t recall that they complained that they didn’t understand me.

    Had u not understood what i said, u cldn’t have been angered, unless u were brain-injured. One cannot be sane and get angry with people and their perceived or real shortcomings.
    By now we ?all know that we all have numerous shortcomings. Let’s leave the study of human faults to scientists. We can, of course, join them in search for faults and the cure for them!

    All i am doing is using the language differently or in a novel way. Which, imo, is much closer to reality than any verbal brilliancy.

    If there are people who have not understood a statement like: world is producing more fascists and lovers of opulence, a paraphrase may make my point clear.
    Rich people abhor and mightily fear socialism. In US fascists may outnumber non-fascist by a margin of 99 to one. All want a ‘better’ life: cars, huge houses, gadgets, etc.
    But this is true for nearly all people. And please don’t believe that they fear democracy; it being the best system of rule ever designed for oppressing and using as cannon fodder the vast number of people.

    I can also clarify my observation that we have lost our civilization k’s yrs ago. Exemplars of such a society wld be lakotahs, zunis, navajo, et al ethnoses.
    What wld anger people ab this statement or an observation, i wonder?
    They cld tell me?
    Probably they have in mind western civilization or ‘civilization’ as i say [means socalled civilization] Once u cleanse it of slavery, serfdom, religious wars/hatred, classfulnes, genocides, exploitation, oppression, and many other ills, all that’s left of it is indeed civilization.

    It is useful notion to think of language and its use as a plaything. I play with words! I am concious of the fact that words do hurt others and self. I reject ?all dys- and euphmisms.
    Blame, condemnations, complaints are just irrritants; just like sand in a well-oiled machine. I cld go on with this, but i’ll stop! tnx

  11. hayate said on May 15th, 2010 at 12:43pm #

    lamella said on May 14th, 2010 at 5:57pm #

    “Bozh, I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say people very rarely have any idea what the f*ck you’re saying. Your English is so bad and your reasoning so convoluted that trying to make sense of your posts is a guaranteed ticket to a migraine. Do everyone a favor and either sign up for some ESL classes or quit posting.”

    You don’t speak for me, sayanim/hasbarat. You people thoroughly disgust me.

  12. bozh said on May 15th, 2010 at 3:52pm #

    hayate, thanks,
    It is probable that lamella is much fascist or zionistic. And as such cannot stand what u or i say. i did not catch on until u came up with the idea of of her being sayanim/hasbarat.
    In any case, i won’t be reading her posts any longer! tnx

  13. lichen said on May 16th, 2010 at 4:13pm #

    The Japanese PM is 100% responsible for being a lying imperial subject and a right wing scumbag; he should be replaced by someone who is willing to stand up to the US, which is completely possible.

  14. mary said on May 24th, 2010 at 2:42am #

    Hatoyama has caved in to the Yanks. The base will be relocated to the north of the island.


    Majestic Starchild (what a handle!) says on medialens today –

    Re: Japanese puppet state Govt. ‘caves in’ to imperial orders.
    Posted by majestic starchild on May 24, 2010, 10:15 am, in reply to “Japanese puppet state Govt. ‘caves in’ to imperial orders. ”

    yep. a very sad story. reveals the lie behind ‘defending democracy’.

    We can expect a lot of direct action now by local residents. They really are angry (they also made a human chain of 17,000 around Futenma base last week).

    Hatoyama’s car sped away really quickly after his meeting and the media has picked up on the shameful symbolism (also his wearing of the traditional Okinawan shirt which is meant to be celebratory).

    Hatoyama vowed to move it off Okinawa during the election and has clearly broken a “promise”. People are now saying what the hell was the last 8 months about? The point is to close the extremely dangerous Futenma base asap, thus why waste all that time for nothing? The only good news is that the issue has raised greater awareness amongst Japanese on the mainland who have been happy to ignore the problem.

    But it is no great surprise. Hatoyama is known to be a ditherer who hides his true feelings.

    It is a great testimony to the people of Okinawa and their sincere belief in peace that they have never resorted to violence. This issue was first raised by Hosokawa in 1995!

    The irony of course is that the Marines think the Futenma is a waste of time as it is too small to do any training. Also the High Command wants to move to Guam.

    One specialist has argued that the Marines could use camp Hansen which is large enough and already has a long enough runway – no need to build a new one. Henoko will be environmentally destructive (where the dugon live – only around 50 left).

    BTW – Camp Schwab is named after a US serviceman who died in the Battle of Okinawa but is a hero because he killed a lot of Japanese!