Fukushima returned, repeats SDP threat

by Jun Hongo

Social Democratic Party President Mizuho Fukushima was handed a fourth term Friday without a vote, a day after indicating she would pull her party out of the ruling coalition if the Futenma base is relocated in Okinawa as per a 2006 accord with the United States.

Fukushima, 53, who is also the consumer affairs minister, was quick to challenge the government regarding the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Cape Henoko.

“We will make every effort” to alleviate the burden on Okinawans, she told reporters after securing the SDP’s to position until 2012.

Fukushima revealed that her party is considering placing ads in U.S. newspapers regarding the issue, and collaborating with American environmental organizations to save the coastal area’s wildlife.

Japan and the United States agreed in 2006 to relocate the Futenma station to Henoko in the northern part of Okinawa Island by 2014. But the pacifist SDP has kept up the pressure on the Democratic Party of Japan-led government to get tougher with the U.S. and annul the deal, which was reached by the then long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Even as a panel of high-level U.S. and Japanese officials tries to work out a resolution, Fukushima told a meeting of party executives Thursday that she “will have to make a grave decision” if a base is built at Henoko as agreed in the 2006 accord.

SDP Lower House member Kantoku Teruya initially sought to run in the party’s presidential election, but pulled out after Fukushima’s remark “assured” him of his party’s determination.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, whose DPJ will lose a majority in the Upper House if the small SDP decides to part ways with the coalition, has indicated talks with the U.S. will not wrap up within the year.

“I am satisfied that talks will not be rushed to reach a conclusion this month,” Fukushima said Friday, adding that “the tide has begun to turn” in negotiations over Futenma. The SDP chief called on the government to take time to review the 2006 accord thoroughly.

Fukushima, a Miyazaki Prefecture native, graduated from the University of Tokyo before joining the bar in 1987. A lawyer specializing in human rights issues, she won an Upper House seat on the SDP ticket in 1998. The successor to longtime party leader Takako Doi has served as SDP president since 2003. She will run in next July’s Upper House election on the SDP’s proportional representation list.

Fukushima pledged to double her party’s number of seats in the upcoming crucial vote, saying the SDP “is a small party, but it is a party with ideals.”