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DPJ's Ozawa does not understand

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Here is a follow-up to my post, “DPJ’s Ozawa: U.S. Navy in Japan is enough.” It seems like I am not the only one that thinks Ozawa is misses the mark with his comments.

The Mainichi Shimbun reports: Along with the Japan-U.S. summit, Ichiro Ozawa, president of the leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto), reiterated his advocacy yesterday of reducing the U.S. military presence in Japan and clearly set forth his stance of breaking away from “blindly following the United States.” This underscored his long-standing argument for an “equal Japan-U.S. alliance,” that would come with a change of government after the next election for the House of Representatives. At the same time, however, Ozawa also suggested the need for Japan to build up its defense power. One expert said, “What he is saying will need constitutional revision.” In addition, his remarks gave rise to a sense of bewilderment or wariness among opposition parties.

“We should talk with the United States about global strategies for role-sharing, and if Japan takes on its own role in the security area that is deeply related to Japan, then the U.S. military’s role will be lessened,” Ozawa told reporters yesterday in the city of Osaka. He added: “The U.S. presence is necessary, but generally speaking, the presence of the (U.S. Navy’s) Seventh Fleet (based in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture) is enough. After the U.S. military’s pullout, Japan could fulfill its responsibility for its own defense.”

According to one DPJ official close to Ozawa, what Ozawa said means that if Japan takes on an appropriate burden for its national defense in the role of U.S. Forces Japan, the 7th Fleet would be enough for “stability in the Far East.”

However, Satoshi Morimoto, a professor of security affairs at Takushoku University’s graduate school, said, “The U.S. forces in Japan have troops from the Marine Corps and the Air Force. The Seventh Fleet is a part of the Navy, and its presence alone can only fulfill a portion of the deterrence functions.” Morimoto also said, “If Japan is going to take over the U.S. military’s role after they are gone, that means rearming and it will be necessary to amend the Constitution.”

Kazuo Shii, chairman of the Japanese Communist Party, warned: “Becoming an equal partner by going for armaments expansion is the wrong way. The more Japan builds up its military power, the more the United States will use it.” Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party, was at a loss, saying: “He said the Seventh Fleet is enough. What comes after that will have a different meaning, if that means Japan will do it on its own or if that means to reduce bases. We are against arms expansion.”

However, DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama told reporters in Tokyo: “What he meant, I think, was that the threat in the Far East is not increasing. He was not thinking about a military build up by Japan.” With this, Hatoyama sought understanding for Ozawa’s remarks. However, he also developed his own view, saying: “If in the future we lay down a missile defense network or other systems, we will be able to maintain the security of Japan within the bounds of Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented policy, even if we do not depend on the United States.”

In a Sankei Shimbun interview: Kevin Maher, U.S. consul general in Okinawa, in a press conference on Feb. 25, criticized the view expressed by Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) President Ichiro Ozawa that in the future having only the U.S. Navy stationed in Japan would be sufficient. He stated: “The security environment in the Far East cannot be taken lightly. [He] does not understand the indispensability of the Air Force, the Marines and other services.” He stressed the importance of maintaining the readiness of the Army, Air Force and the Marines.

In addition, the consul general revealed that his appointment to head the Japan Desk at the State Department, who administers Japan policy at the working level, “will be formally decided next week.”

On the issue of the relocation of Futenma Air Station, he restated his view rejecting the request of the prefecture to move the site of the runway into the ocean, saying, “(The current proposal) is a plan that balances the impact on the environment and on local residents. Construction of the land portion has already begun; this is not the time for reconsideration.”

A Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker with cabinet experience yesterday criticized Ozawa’s remark, saying: “Northeast Asia has the North Korea and the Taiwan Strait issues. The presence of the U.S. Marines (as part of the U.S. forces in Japan) is significant as a landing force. Mr. Ozawa does not seem to understand such (the importance of military balance).”

In the Nikkei, Hidehisa Otsuji, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Upper House lawmakers’ caucus, criticized Ozawa yesterday, saying, “I was a statement extremely lacking in judgment that revealed an ignorance of the reality of Japan-U.S. defense affairs.”  

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