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"Shattered Hope" - as contributed to The Diplomat

This is an unedited original draft version of the article contributed to the Tokyo Notes blog of The Diplomat. For the professionally edited version of the article. Click the title. For a complete super-translated Japanese version, click here.

The sudden and yet expected resignation of Prime Minister Hatoyama on Wednesday was a shock to the entire Japanese nation. Both supporters and the oppositions of the ailing Prime Minister were took by a great surprise. It shocked, most of all, the people of Okinawa and those who remained hopeful on the few days before the Judgment Day.

For them, the Judgment Day was not the day when Hatoyama made his announcement for resignation but the day when a new agreement was signed into by the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (SCC) on May 28th, 2010.

For many who remained hopeful on the last days before the signing and announcement of the new agreement, it only brought despair and disappointment, in particular, for the people of Nago City(Okinawa) and Tokunoshima(Kagoshima). The two locations were specified in the agreement to be the most potential candidates for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station (MCAS) facility and its training functions.

"Both sides confirmed the intention to locate the replacement facility at the Camp Schwab Henoko-saki area and adjacent waters, with the runway portion(s) of the facility to be 1,800 meters long, inclusive of overruns, exclusive of seawalls."

"The two sides committed to expand the relocation of the U.S. forces activities, to include both bilateral and unilateral training, outside of Okinawa. In this regard, utilization of Tokunoshima will be considered, subject to development of appropriate facilities.

Both prefectures repeatedly rejected the request from the government and remained adamant. The agreement was a testament to these people that their government weighed the bilateral relationship over their demand, and hope.

Then came the resignation of the national leader. Their last hope was shattered.

For those who remained hopeful, the resignation was the acknowledgment from their leader that he cannot fight for the people suffering from the U.S. military presence in Japan. For them it was cowardice of the weak and indecisive Prime Minister to abandon his responsibilities to protect the interests and livelihood of the people he governs over the interest of national security and bilateral alliance.

In the end, national security prevailed. The preamble of the SCC agreement highlighted the renewed recognition in  both governments that "the U.S.-Japan Alliance remains indispensable not only to the defense of Japan, but also to the peace, security, and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region," owing to"(r)ecent developments in the security environment of Northeast Asia".

"... the U.S.-Japan Alliance remains indispensable not only to the defense of Japan, but also to the peace, security, and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region. Recent developments in the security environment of Northeast Asia reaffirmed the significance of the Alliance. "

The suspected North Korean submarine attack changed the entire game. A single alleged torpedo destroyed not only the security equilibrium of the region but the hopes of the many.

And the game continues.

According to Kyodo, Capitol Hill rejected the relocation bill on the U.S. Marines in Okinawa, as-is, and demanded a major cut on the budget, just a day before the announcement of Prime Minister’s resignation.

According to an internal document obtained by Kyodo, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee reduced the outlay of the budget by 70 percent of the government-proposed level, citing the Okinawa Prefecture governor's refusal to approve land reclamation plan for the proposed area in "Camp Schwab Henoko-saki area and adjacent waters" (as specified in the SCC agreement) as its reasons.

Many of the disgruntled hopefuls see this development as outright pressure against the Japanese negotiators that seek to finalize and follow through with the new SCC agreement.

Another recent development also strengthens this conviction.

Also according to another article by Kyodo, both the U.S. and Japanese governments are considering to postpone the transfer of some 8,552 marines and its 9,000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam "by three to five years from the originally scheduled 2014." This would of course alter the agreed time-line.

As the article reiterates, both governments have agreed that the relocation of the marines and its dependents are "dependent on tangible progress" on relocating the MCAS to another site in Okinawa. As the article points out, the delay could seriously affect the outcome of the replacement facility.

This would be another blow to those who are hopeful. The fact that these deals are not a one-sided matter but our government is also playing an integral part of it will further their conviction that they are being played around by both sides.

Synonymous to what we call in Japan as “kokumin fuzai no seiji” (politics without due consideration of the people), “kokumin fuzai no gaikou” (diplomacy without due consideration of the people) has completely shattered the hopes of many, with no one to blame but themselves for allowing the current administration into power. But resignation of its leader will not resolve this, nor would the change of the government, unless a dramatic change in U.S. overseas base policy is conceived to address the difficult task of managing a sustainable alliance.

Written by Etranger

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