Wednesday, June 02, 2010

U.S. disposes of uppity Japanese PM

Okinawan protesters attempt to disrupt surveying for potential location for U.S. Marine base.

This isn't getting much attention in this country, but over the last few days, while we were focused on Israeli brutality and the Gulf oil gusher, the recently elected Prime Minister of Japan was a casualty of our empire (and probably his own political weakness.) I'm drawn to the story because I've been following effort by Okinawans to reclaim their island from U.S. Marines who have held on to bases there since World War II, sporadically assaulting and raping the locals, largely with legal impunity. An exhaustive catalogue of these crimes is available at the link. Anti-base candidates won all the offices on the Japanese island in 2010; rage against continued U.S. occupation remains intense.

Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto) swept into office at the end of last August as the candidate of "change." His party replaced the ruling Liberal Democratic Party which had held power since 1955 for all but 11 months. Japanese had big hopes. One Hatoyama's promises was to get the Marines off Okinawa.

Even in the post-election euphoria, "sober" U.S. media like the Los Angeles Time sounded a warning.

"He's not going to rupture the relationship [with the United States], but I do think he will try to have a somewhat more Asia-centered than U.S.-centered policy," said Ellis Krauss, a professor of Japanese politics and policymaking at UC San Diego. ...

"He's going to pretty quickly confront some realities of Japan's situation and find it might be a little difficult at times," Krauss said.

And he did. President Obama gave this other popularly elected "change" guy the cold shoulder; War Secretary Robert Gates visited Japan in March to lay down the law: the Marines would stay. And last week Hatoyama caved. His popularity sunk to under 20 percent, his party feared he would drag them to defeat in upcoming elections -- so yesterday he was pushed out of office.

Must not trifle with the hegemon. Bad PM!

Somehow I suspect that Japan will not put up with this kind of humiliation forever.

Steve Clemons of New America Foundation and The Washington Note has written an important, far more nuanced and knowledgeable, account of these developments.

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