Japan’s Opposition Would Push U.S. to Renegotiate Troop Move
By Sachiko Sakamaki and Takashi Hirokawa
July 17 (Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Party of Japan will seek to cut the estimated $10.3 billion cost for transferring 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2014 should it win next month’s elections, the party’s shadow defense chief said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone signed an agreement in February for Japan to provide $6.09 billion for the move and infrastructure. The costs include a projected $700,000 per housing unit for the troops, which is too much, DPJ legislator Keiichiro Asao said.
“Given the fact that the land is free, $700,000 is too expensive,” Asao, 45, said in a July 15 interview in his Tokyo office. “We’re ready to pay and aren’t calling for lowering the quality. But we cannot convince taxpayers unless we examine the grounds of such an estimation and cut what we can cut.”
Polls show the DPJ is poised to unseat Prime Minister Taro Aso and his Liberal Democratic Party in parliamentary elections on Aug. 30. The LDP has governed almost without interruption since 1955, with foreign policy centered around a U.S. security treaty that keeps 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan. DPJ leaders have called for a less subordinate alliance.
While echoing the call for “equal” ties, Asao said any concerns that a DPJ government would alter the fundamental relationship with the U.S. were misguided.
“We’re not going to be making major policy changes,” he said. The Japan-U.S. alliance “will be fine.”
Ending Refueling Mission
His party has opposed dispatching Japanese naval refueling vessels to the Indian Ocean to help the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and will end it once in office, Asao said.
“We’ll stop the refueling mission,” he said. “There won’t be much of an impact because the amount of fuel Japan is providing is decreasing.”
Aso has made the DPJ’s opposition to Japanese military missions overseas a campaign issue. He criticized former opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa’s suggestion that the U.S. should eventually reduce its forces in Japan, saying it would weaken the country.
Asked who they would support in next month’s election, 37.4 percent of voters favored the DPJ compared with 19.5 percent for the LDP, according to a Jiji News survey published yesterday. Aso’s support rate fell to 16.3 percent from 24.1 percent last month, according to the survey, which didn’t provide a margin of error.
The DPJ will submit a bill to enable Japan to inspect North Korean ships suspected of carrying nuclear-related goods to implement a U.N. resolution against North Korea once the party takes power. A similar bill introduce by the LDP, which cleared the Diet’s lower house, is likely to die because the DPJ- controlled upper house stopped any debate after Aso on July 13 said he would dissolve parliament next week.