Save Democracy in Japan

Voters in Japan have spoken. They don't want the U.S. military Futenma base in Okinawa.

But instead of respecting the will of the majority of Japanese voters, U.S. officials have tried to bully the newly elected reformist Japanese government into reneging on its election promise to remove the US military base from Okinawa.

Since, as the world knows, the United States of America stands for "promoting democracy," why don't we promote democracy by getting our base out of Okinawa like Japanese voters want?

Last summer, Japan had a national election. Yukio Hatoyama, the new prime minister whose coalition won the election, campaigned on a promise to move the US military's Futenma base off Okinawa. But US officials pressured the Japanese government to break its election pledge, warning the Japanese government of "serious consequences" if it did not accept the base, the Washington Post reported. Threats by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates caused Japanese news media to describe him as a "bully," the New York Times reported.

But, according to Kyodo News, Okinawa's governor said Okinawa residents "are insistent" that the base be relocated out of Okinawa. In late January, voters in the Okinawan town of Nago elected a mayor who pledged to oppose the relocation of the U.S. Futenma air base to their town. The Washington Post noted that construction of the air base in Nago would "require a massive landfill in a picturesque stretch of waters now used by fishermen and snorkelers," and that the base "is opposed by environmentalists who have filed a lawsuit saying it would destroy habitat of the rare dugong, a manatee-like sea mammal."

On top of all that, Japanese taxpayers have to pay $2 billion a year to support a military base that they don't want. The phrase "taxation without representation" springs to mind. [$2 billion represents what Japanese taxpayers pay for the maintenance of all U.S. troops in Japan, not just Futenma; AP says that is 3 times what Germany pays to host U.S. troops on its soil.]

Is this how we want people in Japan to see the United States - as a big bully that doesn't care about the views expressed by the majority of voters in national, regional, and local elections, but tries to get its way through bullying and threatening a country that we claim is a close ally?

If not, perhaps Americans should tell President Obama and Congress that the United States ought to respect Japanese democracy.