Monday, May 24, 2010

Japan Week: May 24

Hatoyama Breaks Promise On Okinawa
On his second visit to Okinawa Prefecture since becoming prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama on Sunday repeatedly made it clear that the Henoko coastal area of Nago was the candidate site for the transfer of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
During a meeting with Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, Hatoyama apologized for failing to live up to his promise made while campaigning for the Lower House election last year of moving Futenma functions, at the very least, outside of Okinawa.
"I express my heartfelt apology for not being able to stand by my words," he said.
The first public acknowledgement by Hatoyama of the Henoko site as the candidate for the Futenma transfer set off heated opposition from many different quarters.
Nakaima called the choice "extremely regrettable."
More importantly for Hatoyama, the Social Democratic Party, a junior coalition partner, is dead set against any move that does not involve transferring Futenma functions outside of Okinawa Prefecture.
SDP head Mizuho Fukushima said her party would clearly oppose the proposal.
The opposition by Okinawa prefectural government officials and the SDP makes impossible reaching a decision on Futenma by Hatoyama's self-imposed deadline of the end of May with agreement from the local governments, the ruling coalition and the United States.
The opposition parties will question Hatoyama's political responsibility for failing to meet his deadline.
Officials of Japan and the United States intend to include in a joint statement to be approved by the foreign and defense ministers of the two nations by the end of May wording that designates the Henoko area as the candidate for the Futenma relocation.
At that time, SDP lawmakers may decide they can no longer remain in the coalition government.
During his meeting with Nakaima, Hatoyama said, "If we split up the helicopter units in relocating the functions, we would seriously damage the functioning of the Marines."
With the comment, Hatoyama indicated that all Futenma functions would be moved to Henoko, rather than a proposal considered earlier to move some helicopter units outside of Okinawa.
While details of the construction method to be used at Henoko as well as the exact location of the base still have to be worked out, the Hatoyama government's decision means a return in principle to the 2006 agreement reached when the Liberal Democratic Party was still in control of government.
If construction cannot begin due to opposition by Nago, the Marines may have to continue using Futenma, which is located amid a heavily populated urban area.
Hatoyama said he would make further efforts to reduce the burden on Okinawa.
Hatoyama explained that the deterrent force of the U.S. military presence in Japan, including the Marines in Okinawa, could not be lowered at the present time.
"The recent conditions on the Korean Peninsula show there is still a considerable element of uncertainty in the security environment of East Asia," Hatoyama said.
Hatoyama also explained he would seek to move exercises outside of Okinawa to reduce the base burden. However, Hatoyama stopped short of giving specific locations where the exercises would be moved to.
The prime minister also explained that the United States had shown willingness to implement some measures to reduce the base burden on Okinawa by returning some land now used by the U.S. military.
Hatoyama also met with Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine.
Inamine said, "An agreement between Japan and the United States that ignores the local community is a betrayal of the people of Okinawa and Nago. We resolutely oppose the construction of a base in Nago."
Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa will visit the United States and meet Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Tuesday to work out details of the joint statement by the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries.
If the two governments formally agree on the joint statement, Hatoyama will make an announcement at a news conference as early as Friday.
China Refuses North Korea Aid Pleas
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao declined a request from North Korean leader Kim Jong Il for large-scale aid to his country during his visit to China early this month, a South Korean daily quoted diplomatic sources in Beijing as saying.
At a luncheon with Kim in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on May 6, Wen said China would be unable to give the reclusive state assistance that would exceed the framework of sanctions imposed on North Korea under a U.N. Security Council resolution, the JoonAng Ilbo reported Monday.
Kim was expected to watch "Dream of the Red Chamber" performed by the North Korean Sea of Blood Opera Company in Beijing with the Chinese leadership after the meeting. But Kim canceled his plans to watch it after China declined his request and left for North Korea earlier than initially scheduled.
North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in May last year. The Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1874 in June in response to the North Korea's second nuclear test. China also voted in support of the resolution.
More Woes For Miyazaki
Apparently the explosive spread and contagion of the FMD outbreak has surprised Japanese authorities.
Faced with this situation the government has plans to purchase all the animals at farms within a 10- to 20-kilometer radius. The measures will be made effective as soon as approval from local governments and affected farmers has been obtained the Agriculture Ministry announced late Saturday.
The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and the Miyazaki Prefecture government have been culling cows and pigs at livestock farms where the animals contracted the disease, and are banning the transportation of all livestock at farms within a 10-kilometer radius.
However the Japanese government has decided to expand measures because it is becoming increasingly difficult to stop the disease's explosive outbreak by simply banning the transportation of livestock. Under new rules, animals at farms where no FMD outbreak has been confirmed will also be culled.
As of Saturday an estimated 118,000 cows and pigs at 131 farms from different counties of the prefecture have been culled and under the new rules an additional 200,000 will be put down.
At farms where no animals have been found to be infected, livestock will be vaccinated against the disease to delay the infection. Animals will be destroyed once authorities have secured land to bury their carcasses, said Japanese officials.
Animals at farms within a 10- to 20-kilometer radius from the outbreak centre will be processed into meat, which will be purchased by the central government.

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