Japan cabinet official seeks to soften LDP leader's comments on bases
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"Japan cabinet official seeks to soften LDP leader's comments on bases"
(David Allen) Stars and Stripes
Shinzo Abe was chosen as the secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party because of his popularity among public just before the general election. He gained popularity by taking a hard stance, probably the hardest among all the noted lawmakers in the Japan's political scene, toward North Korea on the issue of abductions of Japanese citizens committed by North Korean agents, revealed last year.
Japan's peace-loving people, so trained by successive leaders of not only political but also social and other arenas, were abashed by being notified of the fact that the regime on the other side of a narrow channel could conduct such an evil act toward Japanese people, always referred to in their comments as friends.
As the incident settled in as traumas in people's minds, and seeing there was no progress on the issue, people began to lose their patience and began to recognize Mr Abe as a reliable leader who would lead Japan out of this paralyzed state, on the abduction issue as well as other political and even economical problems.
Learning how popularity could be won, Mr Abe has enhanced his stance as a hard-liner, recognizing his function as a lead figure of the LDP, in facing the opposition, the DPJ led by Mr Kan, who has been constantly appealing for the US troops to leave Japan, and to eventually rid of the Japan-US Security Treaty. The Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, himself a senior member of the LDP, apparently thought Mr Abe's remarks were too strong, for various reasons including considerations for Komeito party forming coalition with the LDP, thus tried to play it down, as reported in the article introduced here.
Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture made up of a number of islands, and more than 10% of the land, and 20% of the main island is utilized as US military bases. There are estimated 50 thousand US soldiers there. People in Okinawa have a mixed feeling to the existence of the US bases. They are annoyed by the high rate of crimes committed by the soldiers while they know that the local economy would perish without for the activities, from large-scale constructions to personal shoppings, of the US forces. They feel they are being victimized by the people living in other parts of the country because 25% percent of US military facilities in Japan are located in Okinawa whose share of land is only 0.6% of the entire country. In effect, some insist, this is casting all the national security burden on the Okinawans, while the Government merely recites the comments by the US that the strategic location of Okinawa makes it necessary for the bases to be concentrated there.
It is quite possible, therefore, that neither Mr Kan, in claiming to shut down the US bases upon his winning the election, nor Mr Abe, in saying that Japan needs the US forces to maintain its statehood, have won the support of Okinawans whose daily lives and futures depend on the behaviors of the US troops.
It makes the results of the election on 9th all the more interesting to scrutinize.