ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Tokyo-Washington, rien ne va plus ?
by Dominique Bari
Translated Thursday 29 October 2009, by Henry Crapoand reviewed by
The Japanese government is seeking to obtain the military disengagement of US forces, but Washington lets them know that this would be unacceptable. Tokyo has ordered an inquiry into the secret nuclear pacts signed between the two countries.
The first contact between the Obama administration and the brand new Japanese government was rather rude. Tokyo, a traditional Asiatic ally of Washington, had wished "to construct a new relationship that would answer to the needs of the present period." It received instead a definite refusal by the American secretary of defense, Robert Gates, who was visiting the archipelago. The prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, wishes to establish a "relation between equals" with Washington, and expresses the wish to free Japan from their guardianship, which becomes ever heavier, left over from the Cold War, then reinvigorated by the Bush administration when it launched its antiterrorist crusade.
This was one of the most popular positions in Hatoyama’s legislative campaign. His first decision, taken in October, was to terminate the Japanese mission in the Indian Ocean, a mission in support of the international coalition in Afghanistan. Second decision, no less important, the renegotiation of the plan to redeploy American troops stationed in the archipelago. "I want to have frank discussions to study the best solution" to this question, confided the minister of foreign affairs, Katsuya Okada.
Some 47,000 American soldiers are stationed in Japan under the bilateral treaty for mutual security, more than half of this contingent being camped on the single island of Okinawa. There presence is not accepted there. According to an agreement concluded in 2006 between George W. Bush and the Japanese conservatives, then in power, 8,000 marines in Okinawa should be transferred to the island of Guam, which is under American administration. But Japan would have to pay 2.8 billion dollars of moving costs.
Another subject of disaccord, a pact made between the same two parties, which forsees the move, between now and the year 2014, of the marine helicopter airbase at Futenma, situated on the southern end of the island of Okinawa, toward the bay of Henoko, further north. But the local population desires the definitive departure of American troops from Okinawa, even from Japan.
The minister of defense, Toshimi Kitazawa, believes it would be best to revise the status of the US soldiers, a status that he characterizes an "humiliating" to Japanese citizens. The Futenma base, situated in an overpopulated urban zone, arouses the anger of neighboring people, ulcerated by repeated incidents with the marines since, in particular, the gang-rape of a 12-year-old girl in 1995. According to the status of American forces in Japan, dating back to 1960, members of the military involved in crimes fall under American jurisdiction, not Japanese.
Before even stepping foot in Japan, Gates, still on board his plane, speaking to the accompanying members of the press, ruled out any rediscussion of this agreement, demanding, on the contrary, that Japan apply it "as quickly as possible", thus taking no account of the demands of the government officials he was about to meet.
Another sign from the new Japanese team, sent in Washington’s direction. The launching of a commission of inquiry to shed light on the various secret pacts concluded between the two countries, which would have, in particular, authorized the United States to transport (or cause to be transported) nuclear arms to Japan.
Former Japanese diplomats affirm that such a pact, signed in 1960, had authorized American ships and planes carrying nuclear arms to land in the archipelago during the Cold War. Signed at the moment of revision of the Japanese-American security treaty, this treaty would, if it were to be acknowledged, be in contradiction with the policy adopted in 1968, the "three anti-nuclear principles", by virtue of which the country does not permit itself to produce, to possess, or to receive nuclear arms in its territory.
This commission should also investigate three other occult pacts. The first, also dating to 1960, would give advance permission to the United States to deploy in Korea their forces based in Japan, in case anything unexpected were to take place on that peninsula, divided by the Cold War. The two other pacts, related to the retrocession to Japan, in 1972, of the archipelago of Okinawa, occupied by the United States, would have authorized the United States to store nuclear arms there.
One Out of Every Six Japanese Lives Beneath the Threshold of Poverty
According to a study by the minister of social affairs, almost one in six Japanese lives beneath the threshold of poverty, this being one of the highest levels recorded in any developed nation. 15.7% of Japanese had in 2006 less than half of the median annual income of that period, that is, less than 1.14 million yen, or 8,500 euros. The inquiry confirmed that the archipelago is "one of the worst" members of the OCDE as to inequalities, declared the minister of social affairs, Akira Nagatsuma. A report of the OCDE showed that poverty in Japan struck, in particular, 60% of single parent families. An allocation dedicated to this group was canceled this year by the former government, having according 26,000 yen (190 euros) per month and per child up through college, as a means of maintaining the buying power of the Japanese.