Japan’s Top Leader Resigns Over ‘Broken Promise’
Unable to get a US Marine military base off the island of Okinawa cost Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama his seat. Hatoyama had been in power since last September, but resigned on Wednesday after losing all support from members in his party — the Democratic Party of Japan (DJP).
Hatoyama had run on a campaign promise to move the unpopular US base elsewhere, out of the country if possible, but he failed to satisfy his constituents.
US Military In Okinawa
The US built a Marine military base on the island of Okinawa during the Vietnam war and used it as a strategic and logistical location. There are over 33,000 US soldiers currently stationed in Okinawa and Japan has financially supported the US military base for years. In 2007, the Japanese government gave $2 billion in “sympathy” money to the base.
About 75 percent of all US military forces are located on the island, but for the Japanese the stay has lasted way too long. Residents complain of noise pollution from military exercises at the base. Accidents that have resulted in Japanese civilians deaths as well as rape cases involving US military personnel and young Japanese girls have also tarnished the reputation of the military presence on the island.
In 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan promised voters that something was going to be done about the US military on the island. The center-left party had gained the voters confidence and finally came to power last year, ending decades of conservative rule.
But the current tensions between North and South Korea had complicated the promise to move the US base off the island. Hatoyama and President Barack Obama agreed to keep the base on the island for security reasons, angering voters and members of his party.
Hatoyama’s poor popularity was becoming heavy baggage for the Democratic Party of Japan and its members pressured him to resign before an important parliamentary election in July.