Japan to comprehensively review alliance with U.S.: Hatoyama

by Mariko Yasumoto

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama reiterated Thursday his government will ''comprehensively review'' the Japan-U.S. alliance but added it will continue to deepen bilateral ties in a ''multilayered'' way.

''As I have repeatedly said, the Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Japan's foreign policy,'' Hatoyama said during a House of Councillors plenary session.

But he said his government, which took power in mid-September, will comprehensively review the entire status of the alliance on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the revision of the bilateral security treaty next year.

''Through the review and in a mid- to long-term perspective, we will deepen ties in a multilayered way,'' the leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan said.

He made the comments after Yoshimasa Hayashi, an opposition Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, accused the government of having sent ''wrong messages'' to the United States, Japan's closest ally, and urged him to establish a solid policy on the U.S. base issue and the status of U.S. troops in Japan before U.S. President Barack Obama visits Japan on Nov. 12-13.

Hatoyama said his government is seriously examining the 2006 Japan-U.S. deal to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station from a densely populated area in Okinawa Prefecture and that he is the one who will make the final decision on the matter amid what appears to be differing opinions among some of his Cabinet members, including Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.

Speaking to the plenary session, Okada said a plan he recently floated to move the facility to the nearby U.S. Kadena Air Base is an idea he brought up ''as foreign minister,'' but not necessarily endorsed by the Cabinet.

He last week proposed transferring the Futemma base in the city of Ginowan to the Kadena base, which already has a runway, to lighten the burden on people in the city, instead of an existing plan agreed on in 2006 to build a new base in Nago, another city in Okinawa.

''We are examining the idea and want to come up with a conclusion as quickly as possible,'' Okada said.

But the plan has sparked a backlash from people in the town of Kadena and raised eyebrows among lawmakers of the DPJ's coalition partners, such as Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the pacifist Social Democratic Party, who says the plan will do little to ease the burden on local residents.

The previous LDP-led government agreed with the United States in 2006 to relocate the facility to Nago as part of a broad realignment of U.S. forces in Japan.

The new government has promised to review the deal to reduce the burden on Okinawa, which hosts the majority of U.S. forces in Japan, and suggested the facility should be moved off Okinawa.

After U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week pressed Japan to stick to the 2006 deal, however, the government has watered down its stance, and Okada and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa have made comments that differ from each other, causing confusion both at home and in Washington.

At the House of Representatives' plenary session later in the day, Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii said the Hatoyama government has caved in to U.S. pressure too quickly.

''How can you call it an 'equal Japan-U.S. relationship'? It is no different'' from the relations in which Japan was subservient to the United States during the LDP-New Komeito coalition, he said, referring to the DPJ's campaign manifesto which notes the party will aim for ''close and equal'' relations with the United States.

Hatoyama said he disagrees that his government's relationship with Washington is a subservient one.

Hatoyama also again pledged to support a 1995 statement by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama stating that Japan inflicted tremendous damage and suffering on Asian and other countries ''through its colonial rule and aggression.''

On the second day of Diet interpellations, he also said he will minimize additional debt issuance despite a continuing decline in tax revenues.

Hatoyama was responding to Hayashi, a former minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, who challenged him over his recent remarks that could be taken as contradicting an earlier pledge to implement a series of economic steps without issuing fresh bonds.

''You have said you can secure enough funds'' for the DPJ's key campaign pledges such as monthly allowances for families with children without fresh bond issuance, by cutting wasteful spending of taxpayers' money, Hayashi said.

On a political fund scandal in which Hatoyama is embroiled, Hayashi said he should explain the case with his own words in parliament.

But Hatoyama said he thinks it is important to realize what he has pledged to voters, who chose his DPJ over the LDP in the August lower house election.

His political funds management body has been found to have falsely reported donations from people who were already deceased.

Regarding the contentious government plan to abort the decades-old Yamba Dam project in Gunma Prefecture, Hatoyama said he has no intention of rescinding it, as it is one of the DPJ's campaign pledges.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on Oct. 29. 2009)