Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada cast a positive light Thursday on the pace of reform in the Democratic Party of Japan’s first three weeks in power and said he expected the party to continue implementing change right up to the next general election.
Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Okada outlined the steps he has taken since assuming office, including commissioning an investigation into the so-called secret pacts with the United States that allow U.S. ships and aircraft carrying nuclear arms to enter Japan.
The results of the investigation are to be reported by the end of November.
“Only a month ago the DPJ was criticized for being an immature party without the ability to lead, but these prophecies were proved wrong,” Okada said.
“In the future, we’d like to retain this momentum, and have politicians use bureaucrats effectively,” he said, referring to the DPJ’s campaign pledge to wrest power away from the bureaucracy and put it in the hands of politicians.
Okada said he intends to focus his short-term efforts on the contentious reorganization of U.S. forces in Japan and the relocation of U.S. bases in Okinawa. He also stressed shifting assistance to U.S. antiterrorism operations from the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Indian Ocean refueling mission to humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Okada, however, stressed these moves are not meant to distance Japan from the United States, but should be interpreted as a means of creating a fundamental trust between the two nations to ensure a firm alliance for the next 30 to 50 years.
“Prime Minister (Yukio) Hatoyama and I share the same belief that the U.S.-Japan alliance is of the utmost importance . . . however, as with any nation, Japan has its own national interests, just as the U.S. does,” Okada said.
“In order for countries to realize these interests, normally discussions take place, but the reality was that in the past, the U.S was the one making the decisions, while Japan was dragged along by them,” Okada continued.
Shift on Futenma?
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama hinted Wednesday at the possibility that the government may shift its stance on the contentious relocation of a U.S. Marine Corps base in Okinawa and accept the existing Japan-U.S. bilateral accord that states the facility be moved within the prefecture.
“What we stated in our manifesto is certainly one promise we have made, and I still don’t think we should change that so easily,” Hatoyama, who heads the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters in the evening, but added, “I would not deny the possibility that it would change in terms of time.”
In the DPJ election campaign platform, the party pledged to “move in the direction of re-examining the realignment of the U.S. forces in Japan and the role of U.S. bases in Japan,” which refers to a 2006 Japan-U.S. accord in which the two countries agreed to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to another Okinawa city.