Japan Chair Platform: Kan's Way Forward on Futenma
December 23, 2010
The reelection of Governor Hirokazu Nakaima in the Okinawa gubernatorial election has intensified the myopic focus on the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma as the measure by which to gauge the health of U.S.-Japan relations. Governor Nakaima, once a supporter of relocation within Okinawa, promised during the election to seek Futenma’s relocation to somewhere out of the prefecture. This contradicts Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s commitment to implementing a May agreement with the United States to relocate Futenma’s operations to Cape Henoko in Nago in northern Okinawa. Because the United States has no intention to modify its Okinawa base consolidation plans, which hinge on Futenma’s relocation, Kan faces the challenge of having to broker an agreement that will satisfy both Naha and Washington. This requires adept political leadership that can make difficult choices. While Kan’s plummeting support limits his ability to exercise such leadership, there is an opportunity for success.