Political divorce in Japan: U.S. Marine base in Okinawa good for Washington but bad for Okinawans

What are the ramifications of the mini political shake up in Tokyo following the decision by Japanese prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to leave the U.S. base in a less crowded part of Okinawa, after making campaign promises to remove said base? Well, in short, it has resulted in a divorce. A small party headed by Mizuho Fukushima decided to break up with Hatoyama’s coalition

A small party decided to leave Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s ruling coalition over his broken campaign promise to move a U.S. Marine base off Okinawa island, as he faced calls Sunday to resign and dim prospects in upcoming elections. The departure of the Social Democratic Party from the three-party coalition is unlikely to bring down the government led by Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan. But his poor handling could significantly hurt the Democrats’ performance in upper house elections expected in mid July.

“We have decided to leave the coalition government,” Social Democratic party leader Mizuho Fukushima told reporters after meeting with party executives. “It was a tough decision to make, but a political party cannot do without public trust.”

 Hatoyama dismissed Fukushima on Friday as the minister for gender equality and consumer affairs after she refused to sign a Japan-U.S. agreement to move the American base to a less crowded part of Okinawa.

 Hatoyama’s decision to keep the base on Okinawa, broadly in line with a 2006 deal forged by the previous Japanese government, helped heal Tokyo’s ties with Washington but broke the prime minister’s campaign promise to move the base off the southern island. It has infuriated Okinawa residents who have long complained about the heavy U.S. military presence.

 Read more here.

UPDATE: prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has tendered his resignation as of 6/1/2010

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