Tags: Japan | ally | base | PM

Japan PM Fires Ally Over US Base

Friday, 28 May 2010 10:50 AM

TOKYO — Japan's Premier Yukio Hatoyama has fired left-leaning coalition partner and consumer affairs minister Mizuho Fukushima for opposing a US base deal, major media reported Friday.

The pacifist cabinet minister, who leads the Social Democrats, had refused to support an agreement with Washington to keep a controversial US airbase on the southern island of Okinawa, where locals vehemently oppose it.

The premier's move throws into turmoil Japan's young centre-left coalition government, although it would retain a majority in both houses of parliament even if the Social Democrats (SDP) bolt the ruling coalition.

Upper house elections are expected on July 11.

Japan and the United States agreed Friday to keep a US military airbase on Okinawa island, resolving a months-long row that has badly strained ties between the allies but angering local opponents.

Tokyo and Washington said in a joint statement that the controversial Futenma marine airbase would be moved, as first agreed in 2006, from a crowded city area to the coastal Henoko region of the southern island.

The cabinet met shortly after the meeting between Hatoyama and Fukushima, in which he reportedly decided to fire her, to endorse the US deal.

The base has long angered locals because of aircraft noise, pollution, the risk of crashes and friction with American service personnel, especially after the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen.

Hatoyama, who in an August election ended Japan's half-century of conservative rule, initially vowed to scrap the 2006 pact and move the base off the island, but then failed to find an alternative location.

Fukushima on Tuesday visited the island to lend her support to anti-base activists, who have staged several mass rallies in recent weeks.

Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), since taking power in September, has relied on the support of her party and another junior partner for a majority in the upper house to allow it to easily pass laws.

However, the DPJ's ranks in the upper house have grown in recent months, thanks to by-election wins and defections by conservative lawmakers, meaning they would retain a paper-thin majority in the chamber even without the SDP.

Hatoyama's right-hand man, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, will take over as consumer affairs minister, Jiji Press reported.

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TOKYO — Japan's Premier Yukio Hatoyama has fired left-leaning coalition partner and consumer affairs minister Mizuho Fukushima for opposing a US base deal, major media reported Friday.
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