GINOWAN, OKINAWA PREF. – Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said Tuesday he still believes that the Futenma air station should be moved out of Okinawa if not Japan.
Unless the U.S. facility is transferred at least outside the prefecture, it cannot be said that the feelings of the people in Okinawa are fully understood, Hatoyama said in a speech in Ginowan, the city that hosts Futenma.
With Tuesday marking the 40th anniversary of Okinawa’s return to Japanese administration, Hatoyama visited the prefecture for the first time since he quit as prime minister in June 2010.
Hatoyama became in September 2009 the first prime minister from the Democratic Party of Japan.
After taking office, he caused confusion by initially pledging to move Futenma at least out of the prefecture despite an earlier Japan-U.S. agreement to relocate the base to the Henoko coastal area of Nago further north on Okinawa Island.
In the face of a strong backlash, however, Hatoyama ended up supporting the original plan to implement the relocation within the prefecture.
In Tokyo, meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada said Tuesday that Hatoyama worsened the issue when he was prime minister.
“The difficult problem became even more difficult” because Hatoyama clearly said he would realize the transfer of the U.S. Marine base out of Okinawa Prefecture, Okada told a news conference.
Hatoyama awakened expectations among Okinawa residents but left them feeling betrayed by withdrawing his target, Okada said.
Okada was foreign minister in Hatoyama’s Cabinet. On this, Okada said he must bear responsibility for the consequences of what happened.