Sigur Center Asia Report, Issue 12: The Okinawa Question and the US-Japan Alliance: Factoring in Japanese Domestic Politics and Debates Open Access
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This Asia Report is based on "The Okinawa Question: Regional Security, the US-Japan Alliance, and Futenma," a conference held on September 19, 2011 at the Elliott School of International Affairs and co-sponsored by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and The Nansai Shoto Industrial Advancement. Since Yoshihiko Noda took office as Prime Minister of Japan two months ago, there appears to be some possibility that the United States and Japan will be able to make progress on the stalled issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa prefecture. However, even cautious optimism should be tempered by the reality of domestic politics in Japan and a thorough consideration of Japan's overall strategic thinking. Noda has made specific gestures expressing an intent to honor the U.S.-Japan agreement to relocate the Futenma base from densely populated Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago City in northeastern Okinawa, where a new on-shore facility would be built. To win political support from Okinawans, he announced in late September that his government would remove the conditions currently attached to development subsidies to the prefecture. In October, he told visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that the government would submit an environmental impact assessment report to Okinawa prefecture by the end of this year, which would formally start a legal process whereby the Okinawa government is required to respond within 90 days. From Washington's perspective, these moves may indicate some longawaited momentum on the Futenma issue.