Two-thirds of the 48,000 U.S. troops in Japan occupy bases on the island of Okinawa. The Obama Administration threatens “there will be no consolidation of forces and return of land in Okinawa” if the new Japan government doesn’t compromise its demands to further scale down the occupation than the old government agreed with the Bush Administration.
The U.S. is “playing hardball with its closest ally in Asia, Japan” over its demand the U.S. withdraw its current level of occupation in Okinawa, Blaine Harden reports at The Washington Post:
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his Democratic Party of Japan (D.P.J.) won a landslide election in August with a vow to be more assertive and less passive in dealing with the United States, which is treaty-bound to protect Japan in time of war.
That promise resonated loudest in Okinawa, a southern island where many residents associate the decades-old presence of tens of thousands of U.S. forces with crime, noise, traffic and environmental degradation.
A prime focus of their frustration and anger is the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, which is located in an urban area that for years has been tormented by the comings and goings of helicopters.
In 2006, the U.S. and Japanese governments agreed to shift the base to a less densely populated area. But the new site is a conservation area, with a relatively unspoiled landscape and coral reefs.
The Japan government—then run by the Liberal Democratic Party, recently ousted by the D.P.J. that campaigned on a platform to oust the U.S. troops occupying Okinawa—paid billions of dollars to the Bush Administration to merely agree to this “relocation plan” which includes 8,000 troops and their families to be relocated to the U.S.-colonized territory of Guam, despite Okinawan demand of full withdrawal.
“Resentment against their presence has grown in recent years due to a series of crimes committed by service personnel,” Julian Ryall recently reported at the Daily Telegraph. On top of heavy noise pollution and the plundering of natural resources through rising pollution, “[rape] cases have brought tens of thousands of protesters onto the streets” over the years, adding:
The plan has been attacked by people living close to Camp Schwab and environmentalists, who claim that the proposal for new runways built on reclaimed land will devastate the local flora and fauna….
Mr Hatoyama himself has indicated that he would support reducing the burden on the people of Okinawa by moving the activities of Futenma out of the prefecture entirely.
The Obama Administration is threatening to not return any land to the Okinawans by relocating the 8,000 troops to Guam if Japan resists U.S. occupation at Futenma.
“The Futenma relocation facility is the lynchpin of the realignment roadmap,” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at a press conference. “Without the Futenma [replacement] facility, there will be no relocation to Guam, and without relocation to Guam there will be no consolidation of forces and return of land in Okinawa. Our view is that this may not be the perfect alternative for anyone, but it is the best alternative for everyone, and it is time to move on”
Days before winning the election in August, Mr. Hatoyama wrote at The New York Times (NYT):
The financial crisis has suggested to many that the era of U.S. unilateralism may come to an end. It has also raised doubts about the permanence of the dollar as the key global currency.
I also feel that as a result of the failure of the Iraq war and the financial crisis, the era of U.S.-led globalism is coming to an end and that we are moving toward an era of multipolarity.
D.P.J. has long opposed Japan’s contribution to the U.S.-led war on—and current occupation of—Afghanistan. Since 2001, Japanese ships have provided fuel and water to coalition ships. Last week, Japan announced its refueling ships in the Indian Ocean will be withdrawn in January to instead fund Afghan police force salaries and several education projects “that it hopes will weaken the lure of the Taliban among disaffected Afghan men”, Justin McCurry reported at the London Guardian. “In the long-term, Hatoyama’s east Asian vision could involve the introduction of a single currency among [Japan, China and South Korea], whose economies account for about 16% of the world’s gross domestic product. The community could be extended to include India, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of South-east Asian Nations.”
As of January 2009, Japan held a little over 20% of the U.S.—which has a national debt near 98% of G.D.P., Hiroko Tabuchi reports at the NYT adding that Japan has a debt-to-G.D.P. ratio of nearly 2:1. The D.P.J. is set to run large public spending plans. To do so, the runaway inflation devaluing its currency will be counterproductive to its agenda. To these populist ends, Japan is selling off bad debt as fast it can in order to pay holders of its own bonds.
“How Japan got into such a deep hole, and kept digging, is a tale of reckless spending,” Mr. Tabuchi reports, citing “hundreds of billions of dollars into civil engineering projects in the postwar era, marbling Japan with highways, dams and ports… The Democratic Party, which swept to victory in August, promises to rein in public works spending. But the party’s generous welfare agenda—like cash support to families with children and free high schools—could ultimately enlarge budget deficits,” adding:
Still, officials insist that Japan is better off than the United States by some measures.
One hugely important difference is that Japan is rich in personal savings and assets, and owes less than 10 percent of its debt to foreigners. By comparison, about 46 percent of America’s debt is held overseas by countries such as China and Japan.
Moreover, half of Japan’s government bonds are held by the public sector, while government regulations encourage long-term investors like banks, pension funds and insurance companies to buy up the rest.
Unlike, the risk of a U.S. dollar demise, “this makes a sudden sell-off of government bonds unlikely, officials argue” against the same for the yen. Still, D.P.J. policy could “raise Japan’s risk of default”.
Middle East members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are conspiring with Japan and other countries to abandon the U.S. dollar. Iran has completely abandoned the dollar from the its reserves. Nine Latin American powers have approved a document to replace the dollar with a new intra-regional currency. Russia and China are openly “ready to consider” abandoning the dollar in bilateral trade. Brazil, Russia, India and China have forged an alliance to plan abandoning the dollar. All of these point toward the imminent demise of dollar hegemony, the once primary advantage to financing U.S. government recklessness and manufacturing the illusion that the U.S. is ‘rich’.
Frankly, Japan has neither the financial nor the political capital to further enable the losing proposition that is the American Empire.