John McCreary’s excellent Nightwatch had the following to say on 5/23:
Japan-US: Update. Japan and the United States reached agreement 22 May on a plan to relocate the US Marine Corps airbase at Futenma, Okinawa Prefecture, Reuters reported. The new agreement makes only minor changes to the 2006 agreement that Prime Minister Hatoyama promised to scrap.
A new runway would still be built on Nago’s coast near an existing U.S. base, but a decision on the exact location and construction method would be left until fall, prior to a visit to Japan by U.S. President Obama. The two sides also agreed to consider moving some base functions to areas outside Okinawa.
Prime Minister Hatoyama said 23 May that a U.S. military base will remain in Okinawa, CNN reported. Hatoyama had promised during his campaign to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to another island, but said it will instead be relocated to the less-densely populated Henoko area of the island. Hatoyama said the decision was heartbreaking, and apologized to Okinawans that the conclusion is not what they had wanted.
Comment: The crisis over the sinking of the patrol ship Cheonan probably contributed to Hatoyama’s decision to not inject any more strain in the US security relationship. The North unwittingly gave Hatoyama an exit that saves face and is defensible on national security grounds, despite the disappointment of the Okinawans. Now is not the time to show North Korea any fractures among the Allies. (Link)
Excellent point about North Korea giving Yukio Hatoyama a face-saving “out”. Although I had earlier linked to an article in which Hatoyama did shift the blame to North Korea, I admit I saw it as a Westerner would–i.e., just another slippery political move. Perhaps, but in Asia it’s deeper than that. As I’ve said before, JSW is a learning blog.
Rethinking where the new airstrip would be built and how it would be built is a new development–some of the outrage about the new airstrip was over the fact that under the 2006 agreement, the airstrip was to be built over a coral reef. Can anyone imagine letting Japan build an airstrip over a Hawaiian coral reef? Me neither.
A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch