Japan coalition splinters after US base stay

Japan coalition splinters after agreeing Friday to keep a US airbase on Okinawa island, breaking a key election promise.

Japan coalition splinters after US base stay

Japan coalition splinters after agreeing Friday to keep a US airbase on Okinawa island, breaking a key election promise.

Embattled Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama sacked his consumer affairs minister who has sided with the anti-base movement on the island that has long, reluctantly, hosted the country's largest concentration of US forces.

The departure of Mizuho Fukushima, who leads the pacifist Social Democrats, weakens, but does not cripple, Hatoyama's coalition government, which retains a majority in both house of parliament ahead of July upper house elections.

Fukushima on Tuesday visited the island to lend her support to anti-base activists, who have staged several mass rallies in recent weeks. On Friday the cabinet minister refused to endorse the deal with Washington.

The development was the latest blow for centre-left Hatoyama, who took office eight months ago vowing "more equal" relations with the United States, but who since caved in on the base row, breaking a key election promise.

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.

He made a U-turn early this month when he said the base would stay on Okinawa, which has had a heavy US military presence since World War II.

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.

Agencies

Last Mod: 28 Mayıs 2010, 15:25
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