Governors Cool To Hatoyama RequestGovernors have reacted coolly to Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's request that all prefectures share the burden of hosting U.S. forces with Okinawa Prefecture during a recent meeting.
Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto was the only attendee who expressed willingness to take over some U.S. base functions or training sites from Okinawa, while 18 of the 47 governors did not even attend the meeting.
The National Governors' Association (NGA) held the meeting in Tokyo at the request of Hatoyama. In the meeting, the prime minister asked governors to accept the relocation of U.S. military drills currently being held in Okinawa to reduce the burden on the southernmost prefecture.
Chiba Gov. Kensaku Morita questioned the timing of the meeting. "Why did you call this conference now?"
In response, Hatoyama admitted that he hoped to use the NGA to smoothly implement the government's plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture.
"If you express your willingness to accept drills in the future, it will help facilitate the relocation to the Henoko district of Okinawa," he said.
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima strongly requested that a large portion of the U.S. forces based in his prefecture be moved out. "The current situation far surpasses the burden that Okinawa residents should be expected to shoulder as Japanese citizens."
Many governors expressed sympathy with Nakaima, with Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa saying, "U.S. bases should be dispersed."
However, governors appeared amazed by Hatoyama's request that they voluntarily offer to host training sites. "It's impossible for prefectures to raise their hands. The national government should propose specific sites," Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi said.
Prefectures that already host U.S. military facilities or training sites refused to bear further burdens. "I can't persuade local residents to accept further relocation to our prefecture since we've already fulfilled our responsibility for hosting U.S. military facilities," said Ishikawa Gov. Masanori Tanimoto.
"We can't accept any more base functions," said Aomori Gov. Shingo Mimura.
Of 11 governors who made statements during the meeting, Osaka Gov. Hashimoto was the only one who expressed understanding of Hatoyama's request.
"We haven't hosted any U.S. bases, so we should take the lead in shouldering some of the burden. We'd like to do the best we can," he said.
Bulls Culled In Miyazaki
The prefectural government here has decided to slaughter 49 Miyazaki-brand beef seed bulls after two of them developed symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease.
Two of the 49 seed bulls kept by the Miyazaki Livestock Improvement Association showed symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease, and it is most likely that the remaining 47 cows have also been infected with the virus, Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru revealed Friday during a prefectural assembly session on a supplementary budget for foot-and-mouth control.
"Broken blisters have been spotted in the nasal cavity of one of the seed bulls, and it's been drooling. It developed a fever two days ago, and another bull has fever, too. They are the typical symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease," Higashikokubaru explained during the assembly session, adding, "We will slaughter all the bulls in a few days."
On May 14, one of the commercial cattle kept by the association developed foot-and-mouth symptoms, prompting the national government to decide that all the 49 seed bulls should be slaughtered, including one legendary stud bull dubbed Yasuhira.
Following that decision, the prefecture asked that the 49 seed bulls not be slaughtered on condition that they be closely observed for signs of infection; however, Senior Vice Minister of Agriculture Masahiko Yamada dismissed the request for such an exceptional measure. Higashikokubaru first indicated his intention to approve the slaughter of the animals on Thursday evening.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama dismissed consumer affairs minister Mizuho Fukushima on Friday over her opposition to the government's plan for the relocation of a key U.S. military base within Okinawa Prefecture that was agreed on by Japan and the United States earlier in the day, government sources said.
Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party, one of two small coalition partners of Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan, is insisting that the government should move the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station outside of the island prefecture or Japan in order to reduce the heavy burden on the people of Okinawa from hosting bases.
The decision by Hatoyama could deal a serious blow to his governing coalition before the House of Councillors election expected in July. Some SDP lawmakers have insisted that the party should leave the three-party alliance unless Hatoyama changes his position.
The SDP opposes the plan to relocate the Futenma base to the Henoko area in Okinawa, citing possible damage to the environment as well as the prime minister's failure to make good on his earlier pledge not to do so.
Some government officials said Hatoyama had no option but to fire Fukushima, state minister in charge of consumer affairs, food safety, declining birthrate and gender equality, because she continued to oppose the Japan-U.S. decision despite the prime minister's efforts to persuade her to accept it.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano will handle Fukushima's portfolio for the time being, according to people familiar with the matter.
"It's very disappointing," Fukushima told reporters Friday morning after the Japanese and U.S. governments announced that the base will be moved to the coastal area.
In an executive meeting Thursday, the SDP decided that Fukushima would not sign any Cabinet resolution as long as Hatoyama presumed the relocation site to be in the Henoko coastal area near the Marines' Camp Schwab.
Opposition parties, meanwhile, are increasing pressure on Hatoyama to stand down following the release of the Japan-U.S. statement, which came despite his earlier pledge to significantly reduce the burden on Okinawa by relocating the Futenma base outside the prefecture.
"I'm disgusted," said Toshimitsu Motegi, acting secretary general of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, criticizing Hatoyama for the "confusion" the government has created since it was launched last September.
"There's a gap between what his government has said and done. What was the confusion we saw in the last eight months for?" Motegi said, while calling for the SDP to leave the coalition over the policy difference.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the New Komeito party, said the government is trying to bring about a "fabricated settlement" to the base fiasco, referring to reported attempts within the government to maintain the coalition by manipulating the wording of a Cabinet resolution.