When the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took office last year, they ended nearly a half century of unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party, and also broke the unwritten rule of Japanese politics: not to question America.
The DPJ instantly started a clash with the US over deals made by the previous government on US military bases. The US, unused to being questioned on its policy in Japan, has flat out refused to negotiate going forward.
But while it is unclear how much the DPJ can really do about the base deals, it is proving increasingly reluctant to accept the “kindness budget,” a euphemism for the annual outlay (currently at about $2 billion) of Japanese government funds to subsidize the US forces in Okinawa.
With US bases eating up a good chunk of Okinawa and the US demanding $6 billion in “relocation costs” from Japan to move 8,000 of those troops to Guam, the DPJ is increasingly seeing these expenses, particularly during the economic crisis, as something they can do without.
Okinawans are irked by the amount of land the bases take up, and the excessive opulence of the bases, which come complete with their own golf courses on the crowded island. The US State Department insists that the bases are not any different than anywhere else in the world, and that even with the Japanese subsidies the US still pays some $3.9 billion a year to keep the forces there.