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Wednesday, Sep. 26, 2012

Hashimoto's party struggling over policy


Staff writer

OSAKA — Two days after a public discussion on foreign policy, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) officials appear at odds over how to resolve the long-stalled issue of relocating the Futenma air base in Okinawa, while party head Toru Hashimoto faces continued questioning over his proposal to have Japan and South Korea jointly manage the disputed islets in the Sea of Japan.

News photo
Chaotic: Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto faces reporters in City Hall on Tuesday. KYODO

Differences within the party and among its outside advisors on Futenma and other foreign policy issues have highlighted the party's lack of consensus, and foreign policy experience, just as Nippon Ishin no Kai, the only national political party based in Osaka, opened a Tokyo branch office Tuesday.

The party's basic platform calls for all of Japan to create a new road map to reduce the burden of U.S. military bases in Okinawa. But it does not spell out what that means. At a public meeting of party officials Sunday, Osaka Gov. and party Secretary General Ichiro Matsui said he was prepared to discuss reducing the burden.

Questioned about whether that meant Osaka Prefecture would agree to having Futenma relocated, Matsui at first indicated it might, but he then corrected himself and said the prefecture was only prepared to make preparations if asked.

Hashimoto, who is the mayor of Osaka, had a different take on the issue. "There are no other proposals besides the agreement to relocate Futenma to Henoko, in the northern part of Okinawa," he said.

In November 2009, while governor of Osaka, Hashimoto said that if the central government initiated the conversation, he would be willing to discuss the possibility of relocating Futenma to Kansai airport, essentially the same thing Matsui indicated Sunday. But after strong opposition from prefectural residents and lawmakers, Hashimoto dropped the idea. However, in 2010 he suggested Kobe airport might also be a possible candidate for relocation.

As Nippon Ishin no Kai tries to get its story straight on Futenma, Hashimoto was receiving even more attention — and intense criticism from his more nationalistic supporters — for his proposal to have Japan and South Korea manage the Takeshima islets. On Tuesday, he once again defended his position, which has been criticized as not well-considered.

"Joint management of Takeshima is something I've been thinking about for a long time. If each side simply argues that the islets belong to them, what is going to happen to the Japan-South Korea relationship?," Hashimoto said, rejecting arguments from those, including within his party, who favor a more militarily aggressive stance toward Seoul.



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The Japan Times

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