【PART 1】 Mystery of Okinawa: Military Bases and the Constitution


【7】 What was this “other entity besides the Prime Minister” that bureaucrats were loyal to?


What made the Hatoyama government ultimately collapse was the issue of “relocating” the Futenma U.S. military base outside the prefecture or entirely out of the country. Attempting to resolve this issue, which even the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) called “a Pandora’s box,” made the regime collapse so easily.

Some criticize the administration for attempting such a thing without proper resolve or preparation. I understand this view. However, the implementation of the plan is not the essence of the problem. The significance here is that the first prime minister to achieve a full-scale change of government was ousted for trying to relocate only one foreign military base that, in anyone’s eyes, is clearly dangerous in its present location. However absurd such an event seems, it is a harsh reality that we need to look at squarely.

What’s more, as Mr. Hatoyama attested, the officials of MOFA and the Ministry of Defense (MOD) inexplicably rebelled against him at the time. On April 6, 2010, when the Futenma “relocation” resolution seemed to have reached the homestretch, Mr. Hatoyama invited two senior officials each from the MOFA, MOD, and Cabinet Secretariat to hold a secret meeting at the prime minister’s official residence. He presented to them the final goal, the “Tokunoshima relocation plan.” Afterwards, this was what he told them over drinks: “From now, we’ll fight this battle as a team with this plan. Let’s work together to achieve our goal. The most harmful thing would be for information like this meeting to leak. Whatever you do, please take the utmost care regarding information management.” In other words, he asked them to make sure to do everything in secret.

The next day, however, on the front page of the Asahi Shimbun evening paper, the content of the secret meeting was leaked.(*) This was a clear indication that the other senior officials had no intention of following his directions. Mr. Hatoyama has said that the officials were loyal to some “other entity” besides him, the prime minister who had been put into office through a legitimate election (“Truth of the Futenma Relocation Problem,” Fraternity Channel, June 3, 2013).


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In May 2011, exactly a year after Mr. Hatoyama stepped down from his post as prime minister, hard proof was given supporting his statement. Wikileaks, a website that exposes secret information, published official U.S. government documents related to this issue.

The content of the documents was shocking. It revealed that Japan’s top-class MOFA and MOD officials had made critical comments to U.S. negotiation managers, such as the following: “[Regarding the demands made by the DPJ] you should not show flexibility from early on” (Nobushige Takamizawa, Director General, Bureau of Defense Policy, MOD/Currently Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary, in charge of security matters), and “[The DPJ’s way of thinking is] ridiculous, and they will [eventually] come to learn” (Akitaka Saiki, Director General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, MOFA/Currently Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs).


* ・・・ Asahi Shimbun, evening paper, April 7, 2010 edition (front page) “Regarding the relocation issue of the U.S. Forces Futenma Air Station, it was found that Prime Minister Hatoyama held the first meeting of the task force consisting of working-level officials from the Cabinet Secretariat, MOFA and MOD in the evening of the 6th. … / The Prime Minister … seems to have instructed that negotiations be held with the U.S. and local government to relocate the bulk of Futenma’s helicopter unit to Tokunoshima, Kagoshima Prefecture, and confirmed the negotiation schedule and strategy. / In the task force, it was also reported that they had as yet received no reply from the U.S. about the discussion progress conveyed previously to the U.S. …”