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Press Conference by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama

28 May 2010
[Provisional Translation]

Opening Remarks by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama

I called this press conference today to inform the public regarding a matter directly related to the security and daily lives of all Japanese people. I regret any inconvenience caused by starting this press conference much later than the original schedule. Today, while I will convey my frank thoughts, I will also make a point of taking as many questions as possible.

Just a short time ago the government took a Cabinet Decision on what is often called the [U.S. Marine Corps Air Station] Futenma [relocation] issue and on the reducing the burden borne by the people of Okinawa prefecture. As I begin my remarks I should like first to speak about my thoughts while tackling this issue since the change of government in autumn last year.

Japan now stands at a major historical turning point. We have probably entered an era of momentous change, both in terms of domestic politics and foreign relations, that comes only once in decades. I considered that it was necessary to try to find a solution to the issue of [US] military bases in Okinawa from this perspective. Okinawa, which constitutes a mere 0.6% of Japanese land, bears the disproportionate burden of having 75% of bases of the US forces in Japan concentrated there. It is no exaggeration to say that the peace and prosperity that Japan now enjoys has come about precisely because the people of Okinawa have shouldered burdens such as the noise which comes from the US military stationed there, which I daresay can be called earsplitting, and the dangers of the air station being adjacent to a densely populated urban area.

Yet I believe it fair to say that as they go about their daily lives most Japanese people have found it easy to forget the strain placed on Okinawa or on the communities where the bases are located. In World War II, Okinawa also endured the largest domestic ground battle in Japan - virtually the only one on Japanese soil - and suffered a major loss of life. Here too, Okinawa served as a breakwater for the safety of the mainland.

After the war, Okinawa faced hardships while under the administration of the United States for twenty-seven years and continues to do so in shouldering, almost alone, the burden of bases even after its reversion to Japan. In light of these, I understand in a deeply poignant way the feelings of the people of Okinawa who view the current issue of military bases as being unjustly discriminatory against Okinawa.

However, at the same time, the presence of the U.S. military bases is imperative for the security of Japan. Are we conscious every day that some fifty thousand young Americans are stationed in Japan, several thousand kilometres from their hometowns, toiling daily to ensure the security of Japan and the rest of the Far East? We must not forget their sacrifices either.

"We, the people of Japan, vow to make Okinawa an island of peace and a new stage for economic and cultural exchanges between Japan and the Asian continent, Southeast Asia, and still beyond that, to the countries of the Pacific, as a way to comfort the souls of the many who lost their precious lives on Okinawan soil."

This is the declaration of 17 May 1972 by the Japanese government upon the reversion of Okinawa. Thirty-eight years have passed since this declaration was made. Are we sufficiently carrying out this "vow" to Okinawa, which fulfilled its aspiration to return to our country?

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. I examined in earnest whether a major shift could be brought about so as to make the Japan-U.S. relationship of trust spanning more than fifty years an even closer one. I undertook this also as the responsibility of a new government which came to power in the first change of government brought about by an election since World War II, born amidst great expectations from the Japanese people.

I seriously considered whether the dangers of Futenma air station, located in the very middle of an urban area, could not be mitigated to at least some degree, as well as whether there were not some means of alleviating in a concrete way the excessive burdens and dangers faced by the people of Okinawa, even a little and even in small steps at a time.

It is for this reason that I have been making my utmost efforts to see whether the Futenma replacement facility could be moved outside Okinawa, or whether Tokunoshima or other regions in Japan could take on even some small part of Okinawa's burden.

This, however, was made difficult for me by the reality that elements of instability and uncertainty remain in Asia and the Pacific region.

As symbolised by the sinking of the Republic of Korea patrol vessel in March, the situation in East Asia, such as recently seen on the Korean peninsula is extremely tense. So, how should we view the major role played by the Japan-US alliance in ensuring the security of East Asia?

We have naturally been doing our utmost in negotiations with the United States in order to reduce the burden on Okinawa and eliminate the dangers of Futenma to the greatest possible extent, while being fully mindful of security considerations.

Within that context, today's Cabinet Decision is the result of a careful consideration of the deterrence provided by the US Forces in Japan, including the Marines, from the perspective of maintaining the peace and security enjoyed by the Japanese people as well as maintaining the peace and security order of not just Japan and the US but also the entire East Asian region.

I recognise that, in comparison with the fundamental alleviation or indeed elimination of the burden and the dangers faced by the Okinawan people that I had envisioned at the outset, this Cabinet Decision may be nothing more than the very first step, or even a half step, forward.

However, move forward we must. We must search out measures to reduce the burden shouldered by Okinawa, even if by a step-by-step approach, all the while ensuring the security of our country.

I have been working towards the goal of obtaining, regarding the Futenma issue, the understanding of three entities, namely the local areas concerned, the ruling parties and the US, and having each of them get behind the same plan no later than the end of May.

As for the US, I spoke with President Obama by telephone this morning. With regard to the current agreement, we concurred that we would deepen the Japan-US alliance in a way suited to the situation in the twenty-first century. I stressed my desire to have Japan and the US continue their cooperation in order to reduce the burden on Okinawa, and as a result, Japan and the US will be making efforts still further in this regard.

Unfortunately, so far I believe I have not succeeded in garnering the understanding of the Okinawan people, which is the most important.

Also to my regret I was unable to obtain the understanding of Minister [of State for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety, Social Affairs, and Gender Equality, Mizuho] Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, one of [the Democratic Party of Japan's] partners in the ruling coalition. Consequently in the end I had no choice but to dismiss Minister Fukushima from her post.

I truly regret that the Cabinet Decision today was taken under such circumstances. I also apologise that, as we were looking into this issue, discussions within the government, including those among relevant members of the Cabinet, resulted in intensifying to a considerable degree concern and anxiety amongst the Okinawan people, the residents of Tokunoshima, and others.

Yet I firmly believe that without this step forward of the government proposal decided upon today, further progress in the future to eliminate the dangers faced by the residents of the area surrounding the air station and to alleviate the burden of the people of Okinawa would not be possible.

I consider it my duty to continue to work tenaciously towards a resolution of the base issue, using this one step as a point of departure.

I will continue to devote my utmost efforts so as somehow to gain the understanding of the three groups I mentioned earlier. Beyond this, I consider the understanding and cooperation of the entire public to be absolutely essential in mitigating the burden on Okinawa.

I urge all of you, the Japanese people, to consider the hardship of Okinawa as one which you face yourselves, and I repeat my plea that you to help to reduce Okinawa's burden.

Today I took this difficult decision. I consider it necessary to keep putting myself on the line in working for a total resolution of this issue.

I humbly ask the people of Okinawa and the Japanese people for their understanding and cooperation on this matter.

Next I should like to explain briefly the contents of the Cabinet Decision in more concrete terms and the process through which this decision was taken.

The DPJ had itself been arguing for the relocation [of US military bases] outside Okinawa prefecture or outside Japan altogether when it was in the opposition. Given this background, since its inauguration in September of last year, the government undertook a review of the Japan-U.S. agreement existing from the past regarding the replacement facility of Futenma Air Station. We as the Hatoyama government were entirely unconvinced that we should agree to the existing plan without at least raising the possibility to the United States of relocating the air station to outside Okinawa. Thus last December we decided to search for a new replacement facility.

In the five months since then, with a strong resolve to try somehow to find a replacement facility outside of Okinawa, we examined over forty places as possible relocation sites, both inside and outside Okinawa. However, the main challenge was to meet the requirements of integrated operations by the US Marines. The Marines act as an integrated unit. Moving them in their entirety to the [Japanese] mainland did not realistically exist. On the other hand we were unable to divorce the helicopter unit from the ground force and other units and to relocate it to a place far away from Okinawa.

We also considered relocation to Tokushima in Kagoshima Prefecture, which is relatively close to Okinawa. However, as a result of exchanges with the US side, the conclusion was reached that this would [also] be difficult because of distance factors. We caused anxiety and inconvenience to the people of Tokunoshima during that time, and received some harsh criticism from them. On this I express my deep regret.

After having reached the conclusion that relocation to a place outside Japan or outside Okinawa was not possible, there was no choice but to consider the option of the vicinity of Henoko in Okinawa Prefecture. I sincerely apologise for being unable to keep my word, moreover for having as a result hurt the people of Okinawa.

Despite this, however, the reason why I decided I would have to ask that relocation be within Okinawa, and to a place no other than Henoko was that, unless a replacement facility is decided, the Futenma Air Station shall never be returned. Neither would the relocation of eight thousand US Marines and others to Guam nor the return of U.S. military bases south of Kadena proceed without a decision on the replacement facility. In light of this reality, we will give priority to the elimination of danger and alleviating the burden [borne by Okinawa]. That is the decision which the Cabinet has just taken, and I ask for your understanding on this matter.

We will make a plan concerning the new replacement facility, including details on the location, candidate sites, and so on, taking account of the environmental considerations, the impacts on the local people, and other factors. We will be mindful about dialogue with the residents of the local area. I am well aware that this will anger many Okinawans, especially Nago citizens, who feel that this is unacceptable, and yet I must ask them for their acceptance.

This decision by no means leaves the current situation in Okinawa concerning US military bases unaddressed. First of all, some training by the US military currently conducted in Okinawa will be transferred out of the prefecture, leading to concrete progress in alleviating the burden on Okinawa and removing danger. To achieve this, it will be necessary to ask other local communities to allow training by the US forces and others to take place [in their areas]. Yesterday, I asked prefectural governors from around the country to do this. I will continue to seek their understanding on this matter.

In addition, under the new agreement between Japan and the US, we will also consider requesting cooperation from the people of Tokunoshima. We will continue to engage in thorough discussions on this matter in the future.

Finally, I shall mention a new measure to reduce the burden on Okinawans based on this Japan-US agreement.

Under previous governments, there were cases in which negotiations were not even held with the US on matters requested by Okinawa prefecture. This time Japan and the US have agreed not only on moving some training to places outside the prefecture, but also on allowing people in the fishing industry and others to pass through the US military training area off the coast of the eastern part of the main island of Okinawa.

We have also decided to address environmental issues surrounding the bases, aiming to reach a new agreement. We will devote our efforts from now to hammering out the details.

No one understands better than I do that in the time it took to reach this point, we created anxiety and caused inconvenience to the Japanese people and the people of Okinawa as well as to other concerned parties. I once again express my sincere apology.

On that basis, I will say the following to the Japanese public. Based on the principles I have indicated, the government will press ahead from now to build a replacement facility to enable the return of Futenma Air Station and to enhance measures to reduce the burden on Okinawa. I intend to continue having sincere discussions with the people of Okinawa. I also request the cooperation of communities outside Okinawa prefecture. I hope that the people of Japan come to be of a single mind on this issue and that we pool our collective wisdom towards the resolution of issues concerning military bases.

Also, regardless of how long it takes, I intend to build a Japan that is able to defend the peace of this nation independently. Let us mobilise the collective wisdom of the Japanese, including a deepening of the Japan-US alliance and the pursuit of the East Asian community initiative. I believe that a true resolution of the issue of Okinawan bases lies beyond that.

Finally, I should like to address two important issues besides the issue of military bases. First, regarding the incident of the sinking of the Republic of Korea patrol vessel, on the eve of my visit to the ROK from tomorrow I should like to reiterate my sincere condolences to the victims as well as their families and the people of the ROK. North Korea's action cannot be condoned and Japan together with the international community strongly condemns it. I will duly raise this topic at both the Japan-ROK and Japan-ROK-China summits.

I should also like to express my sympathy to the farmers who are facing such great hardship owing to the outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease in Miyazaki prefecture. The people who have been working round the clock to prevent the spread of the epidemic also have my sincere respect. The government will do everything it can on this matter.

I will end my remarks here. Thank you.


Question: Prime Minister, you touched on this in your opening remarks, but you have said repeatedly that you would reach a conclusion on the Futenma issue by the end of May. However, today's agreement can be said to be incomplete, as Okinawa and the SDP have not agreed with it. Can you really say you've reached a "settlement" by the end of May?

One more question. I believe the Futenma issue will become a major issue in the House of Councillors election. You said [in your opening statement] that you were "full of regret". Given your repeated statements that you would stake your job on the Futenma issue, do you intend to take responsibility depending on the results of the House of Councillors election?

Prime Minister: It is a certainly true that I have repeatedly expressed my desire to garner by the end of May the understanding of the three political parties in the ruling coalition, of the people of Okinawa, and of the US, exactly as in your question. While I have obtained the understanding of the United States, I have regrettably not gained the understanding of the people of Okinawa - the most important group. I believe it is imperative that we should continue unflagging efforts to enhance the understanding of the Okinawan people.

I also had no choice but to dismiss Ms [Mizuho] Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, which is a member of the ruling coalition. I consider this to be truly a shame. I will continue to work to maintain our three-party coalition and I will persist still further in seeking the SDP's understanding on this decision reached by the government. I must simply continue to do everything in my power concerning this matter. Those are my thoughts on this issue.

As for the House of Councillors election, I think that there is no question that naturally [the Futenma issue] will become one of the main issues of the election. We must duly contest the election, although I haven't really had sufficient time to reflect on this matter yet.

As for the matter of responsibility, at this point there is nothing that I can do but to continue doing my best, so that the public enhances its understanding of the thinking of the DPJ, and particularly that of the ruling coalition. In n this way I intend to fulfil my responsibilities.

Question: The Japan-U.S. Joint Statement announced today lays out an arrangement in which considerations of the location, construction method and other points regarding the replacement facility at Henoko will be completed by the end of August, with validation to take place at the next Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee, or "Two-plus-two" meeting. By approximately when will the next "Two-plus-two" meeting be held?

Also, how do you intend to complete the relocation by 2014, given the deep-seated opposition in Okinawa prefecture and the city of Nago, the local area? And how do you foresee the schedule of relocation, considering the reluctance of local communities around Japan to host training by the US military, parts of which are to be moved to various places in Japan?

Prime Minister: First of all, as for when we will next hold this Security Consultative Committee, or "Two-plus-two" meeting, no schedule has been decided. However, from a commonsensical point of view, the "Two-plus-two" meeting would naturally be held before President Obama is due to visit Japan for the APEC meeting. That is my understanding.

With regard to completing the relocation by 2014, naturally I will strive to enhance the understanding of the Okinawan people, who are the most important [in this regard]. In order to do so, I intend to devote myself with singleness of purpose to enhancing the understanding of Governor [Hirokazu] Nakaima and of the citizens of Nago. The Japanese side and the United States have at the "Two-plus-two" meeting come to an agreement to construct the replacement facility in the vicinity of Henoko, so we will be making our utmost efforts in that direction. While there is also the issue of environmental assessment to address, we will be moving forward with a sense of scheduling under which we do everything we can to complete the relocation by 2014.

Concerning the movement of training to a number of different sites, a number of local communities have [in the past] been asked to allow training to take place, and in some of them training is already taking place. We shall consult anew with the residents of other local communities and will strive to move more training as soon as possible.

I also intend to explore various ways of moving training to outside Okinawa, or for all practical purposes outside Okinawa, without relying on cooperation from local communities. I will resort to such options to the greatest possible extent to take steps to eliminate as early as possible the danger being posed by Futenma. I consider that to be the most important thing.

Question: Prime Minister, I believe that your government was launched with the principle of politicians [rather than the bureaucracy] taking the real initiative on policymaking. However, looking at the events as a result of which the relocation site reverted to Henoko, one cannot help asking why the statements made by various Cabinet ministers were so inconsistent and also why the information and experience gained from previous negotiations [with the US] at the Foreign and Defence ministries for example were not fully taken into account.

Looking back at this sequence of events concerning the relocation site, do you believe that there are any points which merit reflection, such as on policy decisions driven by politicians, or the relationship with government ministries and agencies? If yes, what are they?

Prime Minister: Leadership by politicians involves politicians playing the central role in making final decisions, while receiving various forms of information and advice from public servants. Certainly, I have been trying to make this happen in a variety of areas, not just on the Futenma issue. I suspect that the public may consider us to still be finding our feet in that regard after only eight months in office, and in fact I recognize that in our process of trial and error there have been cases where this has not been sufficiently effective. Perhaps to some degree politicians have been too insistent on pushing their views and have insisted that they should consider everything on their own. Hence there may have been cases where they took actions without sufficiently listening to the wisdom and knowledge of our excellent bureaucrats.

However, I do not consider this to be entirely the case so far as the Futenma issue is concerned. We did receive information and advice from officials at the ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs.

That said, if I were to mention one point [as an answer to your question], it would be that with so many people involved in this matter, a surprising amount of various types of information not necessarily fit for immediate public disclosure leaked out when matters were still indefinite. The reason for this is not entirely certain, but the fact is that media reporting based on such leaks caused the public trouble. The fact that the obligation to preserve confidentiality was not always sufficiently met - I feel that that was a very difficult point as we exercised leadership by politicians while also garnering the knowledge of bureaucrats.

Question: Prime Minister, I believe that what you just said is extremely important, so I would like to ask a follow-up question.

I think that many among the general public have the impression that you were extremely, and repeatedly, erratic with regard to this matter. I suspect the reason is probably that various plans emerged and then disappeared in succession. Actually I was planning to ask you the causes of this situation, but just now you said that it seemed that information not fit to be released to the public somehow leaked out. I would think that for the government this is an extremely alarming situation. Prime Minister, are you not thinking of taking some countermeasures on this, rather than just talking about it? I mean, if I understood you correctly in saying that there was a situation in which confidential government information kept leaking out while negotiations were continuing, giving the impression that the government was extremely erratic, this must mean that there were problems with managing information. What do you propose to do about this?

Prime Minister: On information management, as I replied to the previous question, I can't say that there were no problems. That's my view. Since the issue was none other than [the relocation site of] a US military base, should for example a [candidate] site be leaked, it is entirely possible that that could well have the effect in the larger scheme of things of turning those who were favourably disposed into taking an extremely harsh stance. In that sense, I have to admit that there were areas of information management that were seriously lacking in thoroughness. And as for the causes, I feel that in part they had to do with difficulties which come from the change of government.

It would be inappropriate for me to say much more on this matter, and in fact it may just be my own shortcomings. In other words, members of the government should fundamentally cooperate in a united way, whereas I think it was perhaps the case that information leaked from quarters which did not necessarily agreement with that. I feel that I and members of my Cabinet are being asked to show the kind of broad-mindedness that would make the others in government place more trust in us.

Question: First, please tell us the reasons for dismissing Minister Fukushima today. Also, I believe that there were many occasions when the DPJ and the SDP differed in their interpretation of the three-party coalition agreement. Please explain how you viewed this. These are my two questions.

Prime Minister: First, on why, regrettably, I had to dismiss Minister Fukushima. To begin with, Ms Fukushima is the leader of the Social Democratic Party, a party which with regard to the so-called military bases issue has for a long time been calling very vocally for a reduction of military bases and for their relocation, not to outside Okinawa so much as to outside Japan. That stance remains unchanged. So there was a difference of opinion on the military base issue, on that fundamental area. Now, with Japan and the US having agreed on [the] Henoko [area] in Okinawa [as the relocation site of Futenma Air Station], the Social Democratic Party and Minister Fukushima decided that Minister Fukushima could not put her signature to any document [stating, as a domestic matter, the Japanese government's decision], regardless of what form that would take.

Since an agreement was reached between the Japanese and US governments through the framework of the "Two-plus-two" committee, my government obviously has the responsibility to uphold it firmly. It goes without saying that, if in this situation [a Cabinet member] is unable to sign [a Cabinet document concerning this matter], he or she would inevitably have to be dismissed.

While indeed there were conspicuous differences of opinion among the three parties of the ruling coalition, in particular concerning the realignment of US Forces in Japan, including the Futenma issue, there is a document which was carefully agreed by all three parties as they formed this government. That document states that the realignment of US Forces in Japan would be reviewed, but it doesn't actually stipulate that [the relocation site] would be outside Okinawa or outside Japan. However, it is also true that I myself and the DPJ have in the past called for that.

So nowhere within the three-party coalition agreement was it stated [that relocation site would be] outside Okinawa or outside Japan. Yet the SDP asserted that the government should uphold this point [on moving the base outside Okinawa], given the practical similarities [between a point in the coalition agreement and what I called for in my statements] if one considers the gravity of statements [by the leader of the DPJ, who subsequently became Prime Minister]. The difference of views came to a head in the final, crucial stages [before the end-May deadline].

Question: Prime Minister, I believe that it was you yourself who decided on the deadline of the end of May for reaching a conclusion on the relocation of [the] Futenma [air station]. First, I would like to ask the reason for this end-May deadline.

Also, Okinawans are extremely critical, with many expressing their sense of betrayal and disbelief. Please tell us why you were so adamant on reaching an agreement with the US, even going so far as to dismiss Minister Fukushima, when it is extremely difficult for Okinawans to accept its contents.

Prime Minister: As for the end of May, last December I judged that it would be extremely risky to reach a conclusion by the end of that month, and therefore extended the deadline by almost half a year. As for why May, considering the feelings of the people of Okinawa on removing the dangers of Futenma, it would certainly appear to be extremely disingenuous if we were to push back the deadline by a year or two. A one- or two-year postponement would also certainly appear to be a breach of good faith from the US perspective. Therefore, I decided that a one- or two-year delay would be impossible, and chose the end of May believing that a deferral of half year or so would be right.

To give other considerations, for example the first three months [of this year] were the period for budget [deliberations in the Diet], so I reckoned that those three months would be inadequate for the government to give sufficient and thorough consideration to the issue. I also thought that the Golden Week holiday period would provide time to demarche various parties concerned. Moreover, if a conclusion were not reached on this issue before the House of Councillors election then it might become the biggest election issue, so I thought it necessary for the government to reach a conclusion before then. I also felt it was my duty to speak about [the government's decision on] this issue before the [Okinawa] gubernatorial election. For all these reasons, I came to say the end of May.

As for why I gave priority to agreement with the US when the local people [of Okinawa] are against the conclusion, one reason is that I recognised that maintaining the relationship of trust between Japan and the US as being the greatest deterrent. With the collision incident between the Republic of Korea and North Korea and various other recent circumstances, this relationship has an extremely major role to play in ensuring the security of East Asia. Therefore I thought we should reach agreement with the United States within half a year [from last December].

I am aware that the local people find this situation difficult to accept. That is why I hope to be able to negotiate with and enhance the understanding of Governor Nakaima, the citizens of Nago, and the members of the city council.

Question: As you are aware, recently the same issue has arisen in Italy. Local citizens have joined forces to conduct a vigorous opposition movement which includes the mayors [from the area]. I myself have been to Henoko to report, and I believe that there are people there even now conducting sit-ins. How will you approach this matter?

Prime Minister: I am well aware that many people are waging an opposition campaign still now, including many elderly men and women, saying that we must not pollute the sea around Henoko. I have met these people myself. My basic stance is that the important point is that we must seek the understanding of these people as well, and we should fundamentally not resort to heavy-handed measures. The key point is that Japan is a democratic nation. So, I believe we must use dialogue to engage with such people as well, in order to enhance their understanding.

Question: I have a question regarding the framework of the coalition. Prime Minister, you said just now that you would work to maintain the three party coalition. Will there be no change to the coalition government concerning its tripartite framework, even with the dismissal of Minister Fukushima? The SDP for its part says that it will consider responses that include separating from the coalition, but what is your view of the matter? Also, are you planning to request another person from the SDP newly to join your Cabinet?

Prime Minister: Executives of the SDP's regional organisations will gather from around the country to meet on the 30th. I suspect that there are various opinions within the SDP, and some conclusion will be reached.

As for myself, I just held talks with Minister Fukushima for some thirty minutes, during which I requested her continuing cooperation within the coalition if at all possible. For example, I said I would like her ongoing cooperation with the issues she dealt with as minister, such as issues faced by the disabled, consumer issues, the problem of suicide, and more. Then there are also the Worker Dispatch Law and the bill on postal reform. Since we have acted together on such bills so far, I also requested her cooperation on these going forward.

There has been talk that as Minister Fukushima has been dismissed [from a Cabinet post] while being the head of her party, things will not be that easy?in other words maintaining the coalition may not be all that easy. However, the DPJ, and I myself, hope to maintain the coalition and we will continue to make efforts towards that end.

In that regard, we naturally would consider having an SDP member join as a new Cabinet member should the SDP so wish, but I believe that matter is something that the SDP itself will discuss and decide on the 30th. These are my thoughts on this topic.

Question: I have three questions.

You said that over forty sites were considered for relocating [Futenma Air Station] outside Okinawa, but as the US didnft agree [to any of them], the plan fell through. How likely do you think it is that relocation to a site outside Okinawa could be achieved at some point in the future?

Also, you mentioned a little earlier a change of training sites that does not involve local communities, but please elaborate on that as I find it hard to get a concrete image of this.

In addition, I would like to confirm that you did not speak to any local authorities when you were considering the forty-plus candidate relocation sites.

I will end my questions there for now.

Prime Minister: First, regarding the possibility of [relocating Futenma Air Station] outside Okinawa, within the language ultimately used in the Cabinet Decision, I pledged to continue to work in the future for the partial transfer of the military base burden to outside Okinawa or outside Japan, as well as towards the reduction and consolidation of US military bases in Japan.

As for the likelihood [of eventual relocation to outside Okinawa], I intend to continue examination of various possibilities. I will not quote a percentage of possible success, but in any event this is not something that can be done in the immediate future. For this past half year, we have been seeking just such a possibility, but ultimately this ended in failure. However, I believe it is extremely necessary that we continue to consider relocation to outside Okinawa, including the transfer of training [to different locations outside the prefecture], and thereby make efforts to reduce the burden on the people of Okinawa even if only a little.

As for an example of the training to be transferred, I believe various things could be considered. Presently joint training between the Marines' helicopter troops and its ground troops are being conducted outside Okinawa, as is live-fire training, and more could be done along these lines, for example.

I have also spoken with the Minister of Defence, saying that as part of these proposals I would like him for example to consider in the future the conducting of joint training by some Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force personnel together with the US military.

With regard to the local communities, the government essentially considered the forty-plus candidate sites on its own, and we did not coordinate with the local authorities concerned.

Question: I would like to confirm a point on the search for a relocation site outside Okinawa. I would like to know how seriously you pursued this possibility, and how much effort you put into this search.

You stated earlier that the option of transferring the Marines in their entirety to the Japanese mainland did not realistically exist. Please explain in detail the reasons why this was not possible.

Okinawa is a small place, and there is more space outside the prefecture, so the question naturally arises whether the entire Marines could not be moved to outside Okinawa. If you wanted to look at moving the base outside the prefecture, one wonders why you couldn't have asked at an earlier stage for cooperation from prefectural governors on moving the [Futenma] base to a location outside Okinawa, rather than asking them a few days ago at the National Governorsf Conference just for cooperation on moving some training to a number of different places.

You mentioned the sense of discrimination harboured by Okinawans, and seem to understand that sentiment. What are your thoughts on the existence of such sentiment, this actual state of affairs which some people are calling a case of discrimination against Okinawa?

Prime Minister: First of all, as for how seriously I considered alternatives outside Okinawa, as one example, I believe that if we could relocate the Marines in Okinawa - not just those in Futenma but all Marines in Okinawa - they would essentially become a single "package" and it should be entirely possible to relocate this package to outside Okinawa.

I do not believe that there is no possibility of moving the Marines in their entirety out of Okinawa in the future; in fact I believe such a possibility may well exist, and although I can't reveal the name of the potential location or locations I think that there is a need to examine such options. However, the reality is that, when we considered over forty candidate sites this time, we did not look at the possibility of moving [all] the Marines [in Okinawa] in their entirety, but we examined where the Marines in Futenma could be relocated outside Okinawa. As an issue for the future, just as you mentioned, I think the possibility of relocating all the Marines in Okinawa as a single "package" would naturally be an extremely appealing option if some local area would accept them. However, I'm afraid that thus far, we - and that includes local authorities - have not been fully considering the relocation of all the Marines in Okinawa.

Next, the voices expressing a sense of discrimination [against Okinawa]. Precisely as I mentioned in my opening remarks, we extremely regret to hear such views. There is no such discrimination [i.e. in the strict sense of the word that is being claimed to exist], but rather the present reality is to a degree a consequence of Okinawa's geopolitical advantageousness - meaning, its advantageousness for the US military. Okinawa has been "used" as a result, while other local authorities have not given sufficient consideration to this point until now and in particular the [central] government had thought of this situation as being a matter of course. So I think it is only natural if a feeling of discrimination should arise. Based on such thoughts, I believe that it is important to first of all alleviate the burden borne by Okinawa in various ways so that we can demonstrate at least a little that this is not the case [i.e. there is no discrimination].

Question: Prime Minister, you emphasised the deterrent role of the Marines. Could you to elaborate a little on this deterrent role? In particular, why is it necessary for Marines to be in Okinawa? And, what can the Marines do as a result of having bases there?

Prime Minister: You asked me to explain deterrence [that the Marines provide]. I mentioned this a little earlier. The fact that Japan and the US are tied together in a relationship of trust is the thing that serves as the greatest deterrent, not only for Japan but also for East Asia and for Asia as a whole. In other words, this relationship provides deterrence in the sense that [it helps to] maintain peace among Asian countries.

Therefore I consider the implications of the United States, or the United States military, having a presence in Japan as a single "package" to be very significant. The Marines in Okinawa have, I believe you know, command units, ground units, air units, and then the logistical support troops, with all of these acting as a single entity. Only when the Marines fulfil their [respective] functions in this way do they provide a deterrent effect to Asia as a whole. If we were to separate one part [of the Marines] from the rest and for example transfer it to a distant location outside Okinawa, the deterrent effect they provide Japan would be lost as well [as that provided to other regions in Asia]. Thus the judgement was made that it would be extremely difficult to do this.

Question: I have two questions. You explained earlier your reasons for setting the end-May deadline, but was the period till then sufficient? The SDP and others suggested that it was better not to aim for a particular deadline but rather to spend the necessary time to examine the issue. What did you think about such views?

Also, at one stage you said in an answer to a Diet question that you had an "idea up your sleeve (fukuan)". What exactly was this?

Prime Minister: You asked me about two points. The first was whether the time till the end-May deadline was too short. Certainly, the first three months for example went by in a flash as the budget was being deliberated. So the issue is whether in the remaining two months the issue was looked into sufficiently. It is true that occasionally I wished for more time. However, I had my own rationale for settling on the end of May, and in line with the reasons I stated earlier, I thought I should set the deadline at the end of May. Thus I have been working on the premise that I had to reach a conclusion within this timeframe. As for whether or not that was sufficient, I do feel that had we had more time, we may have discussed this matter from a broader range of perspectives.

Next, as for the idea up my sleeve, this is something of the past, when various discussions were taking place concerning Okinawa and Tokunoshima. I did have an idea which I did not state openly that involved transferring some of the functions [of the Futenma air station] elsewhere. I don't intend to say anything more concrete than that, and in any event the outcome converged as [I explained earlier]. I had not thought through all the details, but as I had such an idea concerning the regional aspects [of the relocation of the Futenma air station], I referred to it as an "idea up my sleeve".

Question: I would like to ask about your views on national security. It seems that recent discussions on the Futenma base issue concentrated exclusively on the relocation [site] of the base. However, as you stated earlier, I believe that it is simply impossible to avoid the fundamental debate on what kind of framework should be used to ensure Japan's security in order to find a way in the future to reduce the burden [borne by Okinawa] and, as stated in the text of the Cabinet Decision, execute without fail the reorganisation and reduction of the US [bases] in Japan.

In conjunction with that, I believe that as background to this matter, one cannot avoid touching upon the issue of the Constitution. When you appeared on my radio programme on 2 January this year, you stated that [the issue of whether to amend] the Constitution would first need to be discussed within the party [i.e. the Democratic Party of Japan]. However, if it is the government which is to deliberate on national security, I would think it difficult to have such discussions on the party side always reflected. Please share with us your views on such matters.

Prime Minister: You raised a fundamental issue concerning national security. Precisely as you said, the Futenma issue has to be addressed as an extension of our approach towards Japan's national security. In other words, as I mentioned very briefly at the end of an answer I gave earlier, I believe that the Japanese themselves must ensure their national security - that is, safeguard their nation's peace - even if it takes them fifty or a hundred years [to become able to do so]. We must give thought on how to create such a situation, in other words what we should do now to make this possible.

In that sense I submit the need to think from now on how we could create an environment in which the Japanese themselves can ensure Japan's security as a whole, including how to meet the needs concerning the self-defence capabilities of our Self-Defence Forces, including those pertaining to various technological aspects. By doing this we would be able to protect the peace of this nation even as we reorganise and reduce US military bases.

Our current situation, as you are aware, is that within the new government we have not yet wrapped up our discussions on comprehensive national security. I do consider such discussions to be fundamentally important. What I said just briefly a little while ago is that only by [thinking through ourselves the broader issue of national security] will it become possible to reduce the burden borne by Okinawa.

So, as we consider Japan's national security in comprehensive terms, in what ways will it be necessary to change our Constitution? I believe that naturally we must debate in the future whether the Constitution is appropriate as is. What I said during your radio show, Ms Hosokawa, was that while national security is also important, what I would like to bring about is regional sovereignty. I said that if I were to state my personal views on regional sovereignty, this would lead me to claim that there is a basic need to amend the Constitution.

On the other hand, the government is legally required to observe the Constitution. Thus I would argue it is important that, even as we comply with the current Constitution on the one hand, on the other, before the government begins extensive discussions on constitutional amendment, it is necessary for each political party, and in particular the DPJ to organise as a party its arguments on the Constitution as early as possible.

Then I believe the party would need to go through the process of presenting its views to the government. That is what I said [on your radio show] and my thoughts are essentially unchanged.

Question: Prime Minister, because you were unable to keep the pledges that yourself made, a strong sense of anxiety about your effectiveness is spreading among the public. If you continue on as Prime Minister, I believe that this would prove to be a major problem in managing the government. How do you intend to restore the lost trust of the people? At present, is there anything that you can promise to the public?

Prime Minister: Thank you for your question. You asked about my personal effectiveness. Today, I had to dismiss Minister Fukushima despite my strongest feelings of regret. This was because, when considering the security of Japan, in other words, in contemplating how to cherish the lives of the Japanese citizens, I believed that the government had a responsibility to implement faithfully the Japan-US Joint Statement just agreed. I have to admit perhaps it is inevitable that people think I am not sufficiently displaying an ability to deliver results. However, one important point is that in the new democratic politics - a democracy of thorough deliberation, shall we say - serious deliberation ought to be conducted by those concerned among the public, and during that process, the government should take stock of the outcome and translate it into action. Leadership by politicians is leadership by the people. Thus rather than having the Prime Minister have a hand in everything and take all the decisions, it is more important to exhaust all necessary discussions [among the parties concerned], recognising that various viewpoints exist, and when a conclusion is reached, the Prime Minister makes sure that is translated into action.

In that sense, I very much hope that the public comes to understand the "new public commons" more deeply. The meaning of this concept is to draw out the vitality of the private sector to the greatest extent possible in a way that befits a new age. I am now working to create such a society, and I believe that I have succeeded in the area of tax reform, where major changes were made recently in areas which had proved difficult since the Hosokawa government. I hope to build a new society in which the vitality of the private sector is utilised to the utmost, including through such a system of tax deductions. By having the public witness such things, I firmly believe that people will feel profoundly that a new government has come into office and that things have truly changed.