Ampo’s Troubled 50th: Hatoyama’s Abortive Rebellion, Okinawa’s Mounting Resistance and the US-Japan Relationship – Part 2  苦渋の安保改正50年—鳩山反撃の失敗、沖繩で高まる反抗運動、日米関係 第2部 


May 31, 2010

Ampo’s Troubled 50th: Hatoyama’s Abortive Rebellion, Okinawa’s Mounting Resistance and the US-Japan Relationship – Part 2  苦渋の安保改正50年—鳩山反撃の失敗、沖繩で高まる反抗運動、日米関係 第2部 
Ampo’s Troubled 50th: Hatoyama’s Abortive Rebellion, Okinawa’s Mounting Resistance and the US-Japan Relationship – Part 2  苦渋の安保改正50年—鳩山反撃の失敗、沖繩で高まる反抗運動、日米関係 第2部 

Volume 8 | Issue 22 | Number 4

Article ID 3366

Ampo’s Troubled 50th: Hatoyama’s Abortive Rebellion, Okinawa’s Mounting Resistance and the US-Japan Relationship

Gavan McCormack

This is the second of a three part comprehensive survey of the US-Japan relationship defined by the Ampo Treaty of 1960, and refined subsequently in ways that have deepened Japanese and Okinawan subordination to American global power and ambitions. The article focuses on questions pertaining to the legacy of Article Nine of the Constitution, and to Okinawa and base relations as a template for exploring the troubled Ampo relationship, including the powerful and sustained Okinawan resistance to US base expansion.

(Part 2)

The Nye Doctrine and Reorganization of US Bases in Japan

Under the Nye doctrine, America’s East Asian bases, far from being scaled back, as people in Okinawa as well as other parts of Japan had grown to hope, were to be upgraded. The general principles of the doctrine were affirmed in a series of joint statements and agreements on security. Like arrows one after the other from Joseph Nye’s quiver came the legal and institutional reforms adopted to transform the “Alliance:” the Hashimoto-Clinton “Joint Security Declaration” on the “Alliance for the 21st Century” (1996), the “New Defense Guidelines” (1997), the “Vicinity Contingency Law” (Shuhen jitaiho, 1999), the “Law for the Protection of Japanese” (Kokumin hogoho, 2004), the “Law on Response to an Armed Attack” (Buryoku kogeki jitaiho, 2003) the “Law to Facilitate Support to US Forces” (Beigun shien enkatsuka ho, 2004), the Agreement on the Alliance’s “Transformation and Realignment for the Future” (2005) and “Roadmap for Realignment Implementation” (2006), the “Law to Promote Reorganization of US Bases” (Beigun kichi saihen sokushinho, 2007); and the “Special Measures” laws (Tokusoho) for the despatch of the Self-Defense Forces to the Indian Ocean (2001), Iraq (2003) and Somalia (2009).1

The Clinton-Hashimoto Agreement of 1996 began the present phase of the “Okinawa problem” and the long and continuing agony of Nago City. Under pressure of the Okinawan mass mobilization of outrage in the aftermath of the 1995 child rape incident, the “return” of Futenma Marine Air Station, which sits incongruously and dangerously amid the bustling city of Ginowan, was promised. The gold of the promised “return,” however, quickly turned to dross as, instead of closing and returning, Futenma was targeted for “replacement,” i.e. a new, technologically sophisticated and expanded base for the old.

Futenma Marine Air Station in Ginowan

Initially, this Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) was to be a modest (45 metres in length according to the first designs)2 “heliport” to be located somewhere “off the east coast of Okinawa.” That soon turned out to mean offshore from the fishing port of Henoko, a site that had first featured in a 1966 US Navy “Masterplan,” at the height of the Vietnam War, for a comprehensive naval and marine facility. From 1996, the Henoko plan was repeatedly either rejected by an Okinawan citizenry angry at the injustice of one more base being built in their already excessively base-concentrated prefecture or accepted by local government authorities under such conditions (civil-military joint use, fixed term, etc) that amounted to rejection. But the more the project was rejected or subjected to stringent, impossible conditions, the more it returned, larger, more ambitious, and freer of conditions.

Between 1996 and 2010, the government of Japan produced one plan after another centering on Cape Henoko and the Marine base of Camp Schwab already located there. The people of Nago were only once offered a choice on whether or not to accept a new base (albeit in the form of the then small, offshore structure). In a 1997 plebiscite, despite massive central government intervention designed to sway them in favour, a clear majority said No, but in a bizarre outcome the city mayor flew to Tokyo to announce the outcome, rejected it on behalf of the City (i.e. agreed to the base construction), and announced his resignation.

Thereafter, grassroots resentment and hostility to the various Henoko plans emanating from Tokyo persisted, smouldering till it burst into a prefecture-wide resistance movement in 2009. Nago City, and also Okinawan prefectural, authorities in 1999 indicated they would be prepared to accept the project, but only under strict conditions – for dual (military-civilian) use, 15 year limited term and assurance of no environmental damage – as to be tantamount to continuing rejection. The national government, however, interpreted that position as one of unconditional consent. In June 2002 it adopted a revised plan involving a doubling of the area and a decision to reclaim the coral reef (rather than have the base float on pontoons above it) was adopted. Through the decade, Tokyo studiously ignored the views of Nago citizens save for pouring money into “development” projects designed to subvert or neutralize their continuing opposition to the base project.

As survey works began in 2004, skirmishes between the government-employed surveyors and the peace and environment coalition opposition, at sea or on the ocean floor, became a regular occurrence. Prime Minister Koizumi in 2005 conceded the strength of the opposition by cancelling the Henoko plan. Again, however, no sooner was that plan dropped than an alternative, grander design replaced it, first in the form of an “L“ shaped 1,600 metre structure one kilometre offshore from Henoko but then, under the “Beigun saihen” (Realignment of US Forces in Japan) agreement of 2006, as a land-based structure, with dual, “V”-shaped, 1,800 meter runways stretching out from the existing Camp Schwab US base into Oura Bay, and including a deep sea naval port and a chain of helipads scattered through the forest. Japan promised it would complete and hand over this “Futenma Replacement Facility” to the Marine Corps by 2014.

Henoko V-shaped 1,800 meter runway extending to Oura Bay

The 2006 revision (on which see further below) amounted to a comprehensive, hi-tech, air, land and sea base – far larger and more multifunctional than the obsolescent, inconvenient, and dangerous Futenma. Former Governor (and pre-eminent Okinawan historian) Ota Masahide quotes Japanese SDF sources referring to the projected Henoko base as akin in scale to the massive Kansai International Airport in Osaka Bay, as well as Marine Corps descriptions of it as a base that would become second only to Hawaii in the world, at a likely cost of between one and one and a half trillion yen, noting too that it would require 200 million dollars per year in maintenance.3

While the Japanese government approved the Agreement with minimal debate or comment, in Okinawa the resistance continued, defying all efforts by the LDP government to persuade, intimidate, divide, or buy it off. The conservative Governor, thought to be closely allied to the LDP national government, described the plan as “totally unacceptable” and said that “everyone in the prefecture and Nago City opposes it.”4 Earlier, he had referred to the mood of the islands as being like magma on the brink of eruption.

The 2006 “Roadmap” agreements de facto transformed the alliance from one limited in scope under Article 6 of the Joint Security Treaty of 1960 to “the defense of Japan and the Far East” into a structural element of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Its keywords were “interoperability” and “joint operations posture.” The estimated cost, too, steadily rose. Japan was slated to pick up the tab not only for the Henoko construction (estimates varied, but in the vicinity of $10 billion), but also over $6 billion towards the cost of constructing further Marine Corps facilities on Guam.

Richard Armitage, a regular visitor to Tokyo during these crucial years, often bringing what amounted to explicit orders to Koizumi and later governments, by 2006 expressed himself satisfied that Japan was not “sitting in the stands any more,” but had put “boots on the ground” in Iraq, come out as “a player on the playing field,” down to the “baseball diamond,” and, by agreeing to the Pentagon’s military reorganization plans, elevated the relationship onto a par with the American-British alliance. He gave it high points for its efforts to please.5

The Second Report (issued in February 2007 by Nye, Armitage and their associates) on the US-Japan Alliance through 2020, spelled out the agenda for Japan to lift the alliance to its next phase: strengthen the Japanese state, revise the constitution, pass a permanent law to authorize regular overseas despatch of Japanese forces, step up military spending, and explicitly support the principle of use of force in settling international disputes.6 Later that year (in November 2007), Defense Secretary Robert Gates called on Japan to resume its Indian Ocean naval station providing refuelling services for US ships at war in Afghanistan and Iraq (then hotly debated), maintain and increase its payments for hosting US bases, increase its defense budget, and pass a permanent law to authorize overseas dispatch of the SDF whenever the need arose.7

Despite the cooperative mien of the Koizumi and subsequent LDP governments, and Armitage’s satisfaction, progress on the agreed agenda remained slow, especially on the “Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF). By 2008, the survey process still incomplete, the opposition unmoved and, even more important, the LDP’s warrant rapidly running out, Richard Lawless, who as Deputy Defense Secretary had headed the negotiations that culminated in the Roadmap, told the Asahi in May that the alliance was drifting.

“What we really need is a top-down leadership that says, ‘Let’s rededicate ourselves to completing all of these agreements on time; let’s make sure that the budgeting of the money is a national priority’… Japan has to find a way to change its own tempo of decision-making, deployment, integration and operationalizing [sic] this alliance.”8

The Guam treaty was the embodiment of this “top-down” prescription.

The Guam Treaty

The “Guam International Agreement,” signed by Secretary Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Nakasone Hirofumi in February 2009 and then adopted as a treaty (by the Japan side only) under special legislation in May 2009,9 was the incoming Obama administration’s device to extract formal consent from the rapidly declining Aso government (while it still enjoyed the two-thirds Lower House majority delivered by Koizumi’s “postal privatization” triumph of 2005) in such a way as to bind the prospective DPJ government then waiting in the wings, knowing full well the opposition DPJ’s stance – that no new base should be built within Okinawa and Futenma should be returned tout court.10 What distinguished the Guam agreement was not its content – for almost all had been agreed in 2005-2006, but its form: a treaty. And because it was binding on one side only (the government of Japan), it was an “unequal treaty.” To successfully block the Japanese democratic will in this way was the perverse accomplishment of the Obama administration.

The Treaty was the culmination of a fifteen year process of reorganization in accord with the Nye frame. Though widely reported as a US “withdrawal” designed to reduce the burden of post-World War II American military presence in Okinawa (it included a pledge that 8,000 Marines and 9,000 family members would relocate from Okinawa to Guam), it was actually a design to increase the Japanese contribution to the alliance, committing it to the construction of two major US military facilities, extracting huge sums in military subsidy in the process and merging US and Japanese command and intelligence functions.

The Guam treaty is likely to be studied by future generations as something crystallizing the defining moment of a relationship, when both parties went too far, the US in demanding (hastily, well aware that time was running out to cut a deal with the LDP) and Japan in submitting to something not only unequal but also unconstitutional, colonial, and deceitful. Excess on both sides was likely to generate resentment and in the long run to make the relationship more difficult to sustain.11

Allies Adrift

Concern over the policy of the DPJ was strong long before it took office. When party leader Ozawa began to adumbrate a shift in Japanese foreign and defense policy from a Washington centre to a UN-centre, ending deployment of the Maritime Self-Defense Forces to the Indian Ocean in service to the US-led war effort in Iraq, Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer, who till then had ignored him, demanded a meeting, and prominent US scholar bureaucrats joined in issuing thinly veiled threats about the “damage” that Ozawa was causing to the alliance.12 The anxiety rose as Ozawa made clear his dissent from the new US president’s resolve to expand and intensify the Afghanistan War, and went on to raise the possibility of reducing the US presence in Japan to the (Yokosuka-based) US 7th fleet, implying that the bases – all thirteen of them with their 47,000 officers and military personnel – were unnecessary. Immediately after stating these controversial views, Ozawa was caught up in a corruption scandal involving staff misuse of funds, till late in May 2008 he resigned as party chief and was replaced by Hatoyama Yukio.

Although the United States experienced “regime change” from Bush to Obama nine months earlier than did Japan from Aso to Hatoyama, there was minimal change to its Japan policy, or to the team responsible for it. With the exception of the new US Ambassador, John V. Roos, Obama retained the same figures who had played formative roles in the negotiation of the key agreements since 2005: Kurt Campbell, who conducted the Futenma negotiations under Bush became Obama’s Deputy Secretary of State for East Asia; Wallace Gregson, marine commander in Okinawa under Bush became head of the Defense Department’s Asia-Pacific section, and Kevin Maher, Consul-General in Okinawa under Bush became director of the State Department’s Office of Japan affairs.13 Neither Nye nor Armitage held official posts under Obama, but their influence remained high.

In Japan, by contrast, many hailed the September 2009 change of government as the most momentous in the country’s post-1945 history. Weeks before his election to power, Hatoyama published an essay outlining his political thinking, explicitly critical of US “market fundamentalism” in which people tended to be treated “not as an end but as a means,” remarking on global trends “away from “a unipolar world led by the United States towards an era of multipolarity” of which an East Asian community would be one sign, and defined his political philosophy as “Yuai,” literally “Fraternité,” a notion that he described as something that was “not tender but rather … a strong, combative concept that is a banner of revolution.”14 For a Japanese Prime Minister to use the word “revolution” in such a positive way was unprecedented. Washington was alarmed.

In January 2010, Hatoyama chose the occasion of his speech opening the Diet to deliver another elaboration of his core thinking, this time presenting the idea of “protecting life” as his basic philosophical and political principle.15 He began with the words:

“I want to protect people’s lives.

That is my wish: to protect people’s lives

I want to protect the lives of those who are born; of those who grow up and mature…”

No Prime Minister had ever used this occasion to utter such high-minded, philosophical-religious sentiments before (including no less than 24 references to “life”). Hatoyama must have known his words would have special resonance in Okinawa, either because of the “Association for the Protection of Life” that has long played a central role in the movement for the protection of Henoko from base development or for the words attributed to the 17th century Okinawan King, “Nuchi du takara” (life is precious) that are understood to encapsulate essential Okinawan values.

His decision to reconsider the Guam Agreement was therefore taken as a serious threat. The view at the State Department was reported to be that “The hardest thing right now is not China. It’s Japan.”16 A series of statements from the Departments of State and Defense made clear that there could be no reopening of negotiations on something already agreed between states and that it would be a “blow to trust” between the two countries if the Guam Agreement plans could not be implemented.17 The Obama administration appeared to fear that Hatoyama’s picking at this last, crucial knot in the elaborate package of the unequal relationship threatened to expose the inequity and the iniquity, the deception and lies, of all that had gone before it, and that such exposure might threaten its moral and political credibility.

Kurt Campbell told the Asahi there could be no change in the Futenma replacement agreement.18 Michael Green warned that “it would indeed provoke a crisis with the US” if the Democratic Party were to push ahead to try to re-negotiate the military agreements around the Okinawa issue.”19 Wallace Gregson, for the Pentagon, added that the US had “no plans to revise the existing agreements.20 Ian Kelly stated that there was no intention on its part to allow revision,21 and Kevin Maher added a day later that there could be no reopening of negotiations on something already agreed between states.22

In October (2009) Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen visited Tokyo. Gates minced no words:

“The Futenma relocation facility is the lynchpin of the realignment road map. Without the Futenma realignment, the Futenma facility, there will be no relocation to Guam. And without relocation to Guam, there will be no consolidation of forces and the return of land in Okinawa.”23

He is also reported to have insulted his Japanese hosts, refusing to attend a welcoming ceremony at the Defense Ministry or to dine with senior Japanese defense officials.24

In case there remained any shadow of doubt in Japanese minds, Admiral Mullen added that the Henoko base construction was an “absolute requirement.”25

The Washington chorus rose to crescendo in late 2009. For Michael Green, architect of Japan policy under George W. Bush, Hatoyama and his government should not be able to “continue slapping around the United States” or to “play with firecrackers,”26 and the DPJ would “regret” it if it changed established policy and withdrew Japan’s naval forces from the Indian Ocean.27 Green expressed confidence that the “DPJ-led coalition will eventually moderate its demands, drop campaign rhetoric which clashes with reality, and seek to demonstrate competent management of the US-Japan alliance.”28 One week before the scheduled Obama-Hatoyama meeting in Tokyo in November, Ian Kelly (State Department) added ominously that “Japan has to decide what kind of relationship it wants with the US.”29

In similar vein, Richard Armitage remarked scathingly that the Democratic Party was “speaking a different language” and that he and his colleagues were “shocked by its platform.” He regretted the American failure to “spread our network enough,” with the result that the “alliance [was] totally adrift.” He reserved especial venom for Democratic Party Secretary-General Ozawa Ichiro, who, after not visiting Washington for ten years, had taken five plane loads of political and business leaders to China, an event Armitage described as “the Japanese People’s Liberation Army descending on Beijing.”30

By December 2009, Hatoyama’s government was showing signs of strain. Defense Secretary Kitazawa Toshimi and Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya31 were both sounding increasingly like their LDP predecessors reading bureaucratically-prepared briefs. Okada, notable for his earlier expressions such as, “If Japan just follows what the US says, then I think as a sovereign nation that is very pathetic,”32 and “I don’t think we will act simply by accepting what the U.S tells us,”33 by October 2009 had switched to saying that there seemed no alternative but to relocate Futenma within Okinawa. As Hatoyama himself vacillated, Ambassador Roos (said to be a close personal friend of President Obama) expostulated, red-faced (according to observers) to the Japanese Defense and Foreign Ministers on 4 December that trust between Obama and Hatoyama might be grievously damaged if agreement (to construct the Henoko base) was not reached within the year.34 Visiting Okinawa the following day, ostensibly to “listen to the views of the people, Okada startled his Nago City audience by seeking their understanding for the “crisis of the alliance” and for the “difficulty” of the negotiations. His suggestion that Okinawans have sympathy for President Obama “who might not be able to escape criticism for weakness in his dealings with Japan at a time of falling popularity” if the Guam Treaty deal was not implemented, was greeted with shouts of anger. His public identification with the position of the US government was in true “client state” spirit. The Okinawan daily Ryukyu shimpo described his performance as “pathetic.”35

When Hatoyama announced that he was postponing the decision till May of the following year, Washington was further outraged. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell declared that the US “did not accept” the Japanese decision;36 Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, said the Japanese public would have to understand the need to keep US forces in Okinawa,37 and Joseph Nye referred to the DPJ as “inexperienced, divided and still in the thrall of campaign promises,” by which he plainly meant that attempts to renegotiate the Guam Agreement would not be tolerated.38

In January 2010, when Foreign Minister Okada and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in Honolulu,39 setting aside the ceremonial and celebratory words from the report of their meeting, what remained was the peremptory US message:

“…we look to our Japanese allies and friends to follow through on their commitments, including on Futenma. 

I have stressed again today, as I have in previous meetings, that it is important to move on Futenma….

We remain of the opinion that the realignment roadmap is the way forward. It is an agreement that was reached between prior governments of each of our countries.”

Early in 2010, Richard Lawless, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs under George W. Bush (2002-2007), in an interview with the Japanese Asahi referred to the Japanese government as “mindless,” “irrational,” “half-baked,” “boys and girls playing with … matches,” who have “dug themselves into a great big hole,” and caused “self marginalization.”40 It was perhaps the single most overbearing and abusive outburst in the history of the relationship, displaying a level of contempt and condescension that would be inconceivable in US relations with any other country, friend or foe, and calling to mind General Douglas MacArthur, who 60 years ago grandly referred to Japanese people as “twelve year-olds.” Weeks later, Lawless referred to Japan’s investigation into the “secret agreements” ordered by Foreign Minster Okada as “a preoccupation with the past … a fool’s journey.”41

In short, what the US government had to say to the Japanese government as the 50th anniversary celebrations got under way was to order it, over and over again, to fulfil a highly controversial pledge signed and railroaded through the Diet by its predecessor in a way reminiscent of Kishi in 1960.

Mainland media for the most part simply relayed the US message, turning a blind eye to the intimidation and interference in Japan’s affairs.42 Only the Okinawan newspapers lambasted the Hatoyama government for its inability to counter the US’s “intimidatory diplomacy” (as Ryukyu shimpo put it) and for its drift back towards “acceptance of the status quo of following the US.” “If that is to be the new government,” it concluded, “then the change of government has been a failure.”43 In the US, officials, pundits, and commentators alike supported the Guam treaty formula and showed neither sympathy nor understanding for Japanese democracy or Okinawan civil society.

Hatoyama visits Okinawa, May 4, 2010

The rest of the world, with one notable exception, showed minimal interest. The exception was former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev chided both governments over the continuing impasse, insisting that a 70 per cent popular opposition to the base project was something that they should treat very seriously. “Change of government means change of policy, as both governments should recognize. The Hatoyama government talks of political leadership and [should] not allow itself to be manipulated by bureaucratic initiative and intelligence [organs].”44

Okinawa – Regime Change

While the two governments thus celebrated their ambiguous jubilee in the midst of this one-way flow of insults across the Pacific, electors in the city of Nago (population: 60,000; 45,000 eligible voters) in Northern Okinawa, went to the polls in possibly the most dramatic and consequential mayoral election in modern Japanese history. The victory of the Democratic Party in the Lower House national elections of August 2009 had altered the balance of forces. With the government of Japan that had tried unsuccessfully by every means to weaken, split, buy off and intimidate those opposed to the construction of the new base itself thrown from office, the Nago opposition, though tired by apparently endless struggle in their resolutely non-violent contest against the state, took heart.

It is this town, more than any other in modern Japan which has resisted the will of the central government, blocking the best efforts of it and its global super-power ally from 1996. In 2010, by rejecting the agreement that had been negotiated over its head to militarize the Oura Bay, it not only chose a new mayor but served notice demanding major adjustments to the diplomatic and security stance of the Ampo allies.

By 17,950 to 16,362 (in a 77 per cent poll) challenger Inamine Susumu, supported by the Democratic Party and its coalition partners together with labour and civic organizations, defeated incumbent Shimabukuro Yoshikazu, supported by the LDP (and its Komeito partner) and by construction-related business interests. The election was not a plebiscite, but Inamine’s pledge to stop the base construction was featured so prominently that his victory served as an unambiguous Nago statement to Tokyo and Washington, confirming the evidence of opinion polls that had found a 70 per cent level of opposition in the city to the Henoko project.45 Though he was the best hope of the pro-base cause, Shimabukuro avoided any mention of it other than to say it was something for the national government to decide, painting himself as a critic of the Guam treaty plan and as one who favoured the “offshore” option that had been under consideration in 1998-2005. For this reason, even votes for him could not simply be classified as “pro-base.” In any case, by 2010 no one in Tokyo or Washington was interested in such an option. The Nago election outcome suggested that even local business had lost faith in the Higa-Shimabukuro model. Dependence on national government handouts dished out for compliance on base matters had served only to deepen the city’s economic doldrums.

The election shook governments in Tokyo and Washington, compelling them to reconsider the 2005-6 agreements on reorganization of US forces in Japan and the 2009 Guam Treaty. For Nago itself, the Inamine victory put an end to the 13 years of bitterness and confusion initiated by Higa’s shocking, anti-democratic gesture of 1996, because it meant the defeat of the political heir of the mayor who had betrayed Nago in 1997.

During these 13 years, pro-base mayors had been returned in 1998, 2002, and 2006. To some extent this was due to divisions in the opposition camp, but the base compliant forces also developed a formidable framework of equivocation, obfuscation, and conditionality, in a politics of deception similar to that of secret diplomacy and lies that served the “alliance” at the national level. LDP-supported mayors and city governments did what they could to divert attention from the base issue and to concentrate instead on the jobs, fees, and other economic benefits that were supposed to flow from cooperation with Tokyo. In so far as the base was mentioned it was always in terms of qualified, conditional acceptance. Nobody would agree to a permanent, substantial US military facility, and so nobody could ever say, “What this city needs is a new US base…” It was therefore initially called a “heliport,” or a temporary, offshore structure that would float on the sea and eventually be demolished. Chameleon-like, however, it kept changing, with each change growing larger, more permanent and more threatening.

Nago’s new mayor Inamine pledged to prevent the seas of Henoko being made the site for a new military base, to put an end to the special interests tied up with the base that had destroyed the city’s finances and demoralized its citizens, and to give priority to economic policies geared to locally sustainable jobs in harmony with the environment. Beyond the specific promises, however, what Nago City electors were asking of him was that he lift the curse imposed on the city 13 years earlier by his predecessor’s betrayal.

The militarization of Oura Bay, a Pentagon dream since 1966 and a much favoured Japanese bureaucratic project since the late 1990s, came close to realization under bilateral agreements in 1996, 2006, and 2009, but was blocked for nearly 14 years and through the terms of 8 Prime Ministers and 16 Defense Ministers by one of the most remarkable non-violent political movements in modern Japanese (or world) history. By 2010, that movement was stronger, and enjoyed more widespread support in Okinawa, and greater international recognition, than ever before.

Astonishingly, however, the Nago election outcome did not appear to shake the continuing insistence in Tokyo on the absolute priority to alliance obligation. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano Hirofumi commented that he saw no need for the city’s views to be taken into consideration in making the base decision, adding that appropriate legal steps could if necessary be taken to compel submission.46 Such blatant disregard for Okinawan sentiment exceeded even that shown by previous (LDP) governments. The readiness to consider compulsion reminded Okinawans of the way their lands in the 1950s had been seized “in accordance with the law” by US forces with bayonets and bulldozers.47


See part one here and part three here.

Gavan McCormack is a coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus, and author of many previous texts on Okinawa-related matters. His Client State: Japan in the American Embrace was published in English (New York: Verso) in 2007 and in expanded and revised Japanese, Korean, and Chinese versions in 2008. He is an emeritus professor of Australian National University.

Recommended citation: Gavan McCormack, “Ampo’s Troubled 50th: Hatoyama’s Abortive Rebellion, Okinawa’s Mounting Resistance and the US-Japan Relationship (Part 2),” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 22-4-10, May 31, 2010.


1 See Maeda Tetsuo, ‘Juzoku’ kara ‘Jiritsu’ e – Nichibei ampo o kaeru, Kobunken, 2009, pp. 90-92. 

2 Shimokobe Jun, then Vice-Minister at the National Lands Agency, quoted in Sato Manabu, “Obama seiken no Amerika,” op.cit, p. 90.

3 Ota Masahide, “Futenma mondai no botan no kakechigai wa koko kara hajimatta,” Videonews, 11 March 2010. 

4 Client State, p. 167.

5 Client State, chapter 4, passim.

6 Richard L. Armitage and Joseph S. Nye, “The U.S.-Japan Alliance: Getting Asia right through 2020,” Washington, CSIS, February 2007.

7 On the Gates visit: Fumitaka Susami, “Gates backs permanent law to send SDF,” Japan Times, 11 November 2007. See also Kaho Shimizu, “Greater security role is in Japan’s interest: Gates,” Japan Times, 10 November 2007.

8 Yoichi Kato, “Interview/ Richard Lawless: Japan-U.S. alliance faces ‘priority gap’,” Asahi shimbun, 2 May 2008.

9 “Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the United States of America concerning the Implementation of the Relocation of 111 Marine Expeditionary Force Personnel and their Dependents from Okinawa to Guam,” Tokyo, 17 February 2009. 

10 “Futenma wa kengai isetsu” (Futenma to be moved outside of Okinawa), See the Democratic Party’s “Okinawa Vision 2008.” However, in the 2009, pre-election version, the pledge was qualified to “move in the direction of re-examining the realignment of U.S. military forces in Japan.”

11 “The Battle of Okinawa 2009: Obama vs Hatoyama,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 16 November 2009. 

12 Kurt Campbell and Michael Green, “Ozawa’s bravado may damage Japan for years,” Asahi shimbun, 29 August 2007.

13 Maeda Tetsuo, ‘Juzoku’ kara ‘jiritsu’ e – Nichibei Ampo o kaeru, Kobunken, 2009, pp. 15-18.

14 Hatoyama Yukio, “My political philosophy,” Voice, September 2009 (13 August 2009), and in English in Financial Times here.

15 “Policy speech by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama at the 174th Session of the Diet,” 29 January 2010.

16 John Pomfret and Blaine Harden, “US pressures Japan on military package,” Washington Post, 22 October 2009.

17 “Futenma isetsu dekineba Nichibei kankei ni dageki, Bei kokan ga keikoku,” Asahi shimbun, 18  October 2009.

18 Yoichi Kato, “U.S. warm to proposal to reaffirm security pact,” Asahi shimbun, 23 July 2009.

19 Quoted in Mure Dickie and Daniel Dombey, “Prospect of power softens DPJ’s stance,” Financial Times, 21 July 2009. 

20 “Bei kokan ‘minaosanu’ tsugitsugi,” Ryukyu shimpo, 3 September 2009

21 Hiroshi Ito, “U.S. on Futenma revisit: Forget it,” Asahi shimbun, 2 September 2009.

22 “’Kokka-kan no goi’ kyocho,” Okinawa Times, 4 September 2009.

23 “Joint Press Conference with Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates,” Tokyo, 21 October 2009, Department of Defense, News Transcript.

24 John Pomfret and Blaine Harden, “U.S. pressures Japan on military package,” Washington Post, 22 October 2009.

25 “Joint Chiefs chairman: Futenma must move to Nago,” Yomiuri shimbun, 24 October 2009.

26 Michael Green, “Tokyo smackdown,” The New Foreign, 23 October 2009

27 Asahi shimbun, 28 August 2009 (quoted in Miyazato Seigen, “Okinawa kenmin no ishi wa meikaku de aru,” Sekai, 1/2009: 157-163).

28 Michael J. Green, “Japan’s Confused Revolution,” The Washington Quarterly, 33, 1, (Online, 2 December 2009) pp. 3-19, at p. 12.

29 “Futenma de Nihon seifu no boso ken en Bei kokumucho,” Tokyo shimbun, 4 November 2009.

30 Richard Armitage, “Armitage on Henoko-Futenma – America needs a Plan B,” CSIS Pac Forum, Washington, 15 January 2010, Youtube,

31 See “the Battle of Okinawa, 2009”, op.cit.

32 The Guardian, 10 August 2009.

33 “Japan urges U.S. to respect ‘democracy’ over base,” AFP, 22 October 2009.

34 “Futenma nao meiso, Bei makikaeshi de kyuchi,” Ryukyu shimpo, 6 December 2009.

35 Quoted in “Kiki aoru dake de wa nasakenai,” editorial, Ryukyu shimpo, 7 December 2009. For a fascinating transcript of the meeting, see Medoruma Shun’s blog, “Uminari no hitobito,” “Okada gaisho to ‘shimin to no daiwa shukai’, zenmen kokai,” in 7 parts, beginning here

36 “Pentagon prods Japan on Futenma deadline,” Japan Times, 8 January 2010.

37 Ibid.

38 Joseph S. Nye Jr, “An Alliance larger than One Issue,” New York Times, 6 January 2010. (After Nye’s issue of a public call for US restraint, cautioning of the consequences of a “pyrrhic victory” over Henoko, overt intimidation diminished, but the underlying message was unchanged: Henoko the “best solution.” (“Futenma isetsu Bei seifu no shisei imashime Nai shi ga Bei shi kiko,” Ryukyu shinpo, 9 January 2009.)

39 “Remarks with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada After Their Meeting,” Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, Marriott Ihilani Resort, Honolulu, Hawaii, January 12, 2010, US State Dept.

40 Yoichi Kato, “U.S. official: Japan could lose entire Marine presence if Henoko plan scrapped,” Asahi shimbun, 4 March 2010.

41 “Updating the US-Japan Alliance,” 2 April 2010.

42 Even the “liberal” Asahi editorially scolded the Hatoyama government, saying “There is a limit to Washington’s impatience … It would be very unfortunate for both countries if the Futenma issue became blown out of proportion.” (“Relocating Futenma Base,” Asahi shimbun, 23 October 2009.)

43 “Okada gaisho hatsugen – boso suru Hatoyama seiken no genkai, Ampo no Okinawa izon kara dakkyaku o,” Ryukyu shimpo, 25 October 2009.

44 “Gorubachofu shi honshi ni kaito, teigen, Futenma isetsu,” Ryukyu shimpo, 21 December 2009

45 Surveys by Yomiuri shimbun, Okinawa Times and Asahi shimbun, and Ryukyu shimpo and Okinawa TV, published 19 January 2010, found: 73, 65, and 69 per cent respectively wanting the Futenma base relocated outside Okinawa. See Urashima Etsuko and Gavan McCormack, “Electing a town mayor in Okinawa,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 21 January 2010.

46 “’Hirano chokan hatsugen’ kenmin ni kokoro moteasobuna,” editorial, Okinawa Times, 28 January 2010.

47 “Hirano chokan hatsugen,” ibid.

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Volume 8 | Issue 22 | Number 4

Article ID 3366

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