The Japanese cabinet announced today that it will postpone its decision on a relocation option for Futenma Marine Air Station until May. Yet, it retains the budget needed in its fiscal 2010 budget, and will continue the ongoing environmental assessment of the coastal area around Henoko.
Perhaps the most interesting is the decision to ask the United States for a new working-level consultation. See http://blogs.cfr.org/asia/2009/12/11/abrupt-changes-on-futenma/.
But what does the Hatoyama Cabinet want to discuss? My sense is the United States will want to listen, but they may want to hear something more than the relocation options the Hatoyama government wants to discuss.
Perhaps the time has come to recognize we need a broader exercise for the United States and Japan.
The overall challenge for the United States and Japan is to find a mechanism that will have the credibility to craft policy going forward. Given decisions made in the last few weeks by the prime minister, it is hard to believe that the working group approach will provide new options.
Japan seems to have just rejected the U.S. preference for relocating the U.S. Marines.
It will now need to come up with its own options, and persuade the United States of their merits.
Perhaps now policymakers in Washington will get a chance to listen to what ideas are motivating Tokyo’s behavior, and the new Japanese government will be able to articulate their strategic goals and preferences.
What is their vision of the U.S. military presence in Japan?
Broader still, what are the priorities looking forward for our relationship?