OSAKA — Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s sudden resignation Wednesday ended nine months of tense relations with the United States, which was wary of the new government from the beginning for its determination to seek a less U.S.-centric foreign policy.
Washington was angry when Hatoyama said he wanted to keep a verbal pledge to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma out of Okinawa and then exasperated at the way he and his Cabinet handled the issue.
Some U.S. commentators, however, are criticizing U.S. President Barack Obama for being heavy-handed with Hatoyama and for treating him disrespectfully during his April visit to Washington, noting the incident shows only that Japanese politics remain subservient to American demands.
“Obama did little to help the new prime minister stack up some wins with the U.S. and the international system before crushing him on Futenma,” Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation said in a recent Kyodo News article posted on his blog, The Washington Note.
“Hatoyama could not withstand the pressure from Obama, who gave Hatoyama the kind of icy treatment that the White House has also been trying to give Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” he said. “The problem is, Hatoyama wilted and Netanyahu seems to be thriving.”
He concluded: “Japan, despite all of its considerable strengths and what could have been exciting, visionary new leadership from Hatoyama and his Democratic Party colleagues, is still a vassal of the United States.”