Gaijins or Gaikokujins? US airbase tests relations with Japan

Gaijins or Gaikokujins? US airbase tests relations with Japan
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” It seems a minor matter – whether or not to go ahead with a previously agreed plan to move an American military base on the island of Okinawa.

Hardly something, you might think, that could cause tension in the alliance between Japan and the United States, 50 years old this month and critical to the balance of power in Asia.
But Marine Corps Air Station Futenma has become the first test of Japan’s intent to forge a new relationship with America and the world.
It is the key issue as Japan’s Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada meets US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Hawaii on Tuesday.

The base is in the middle of a city and many local people have long been irritated by noise, as well as the fear of accidents and crime.
Okinawa is home to most of the 47,000 American troops based in Japan.

It was to ease the pressure on residents that the American and Japanese governments agreed in 2006 to move the base to a less populated area on the island’s coast, despite concerns about the impact on the marine environment.
But everything was thrown into confusion last year.

The deal had been reached by the Liberal Democratic Party which dominated Japan for half a century.
In the elections in August the voters gave a landslide victory to the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

The new government believes Japan has been too subservient towards the United States in the past. It still values the alliance but wants it on more equal terms.
“ The spat with the Americans will have to be resolved because Japan’s new government has wider ambitions ”

During the election campaign there was talk by the DPJ of moving the Futenma base off Okinawa, some even said it could be moved out of Japan altogether.
Adding to the complication is the fact that despite its commanding position in the lower house of the Diet, or parliament, the DPJ relies for its majority in the upper house on tiny coalition partners who oppose concessions to the US.”

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