Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japan's Hatoyama Disappoints on US Base Delay, Budget

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japan's Hatoyama Disappoints on US Base Delay, Budget

Article excerpt

Japan's Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was criticized at home and in Washington for delaying a decision about moving a US base on Okinawa. Japanese analysts say the new prime minister is off to a slow start on several fronts.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's public support has been dented by doubts about his decision-making ability but with few signs he's at risk of being unseated soon, questions about key policies will likely persist.

That means investors will have to put up with uncertainty as Hatoyama's Democratic Party-led coalition seeks to solve a feud with ally Washington over the US bases in Okinawa and juggles conflicting pressures to prop up the economy with spending while reining in Japan's huge debt.

"If Hatoyama is in trouble, there is a possibility he would be replaced before the upper house election but the likelihood of that is extremely low, almost non-existent" said Naoto Nonaka, a political science professor at Tokyo's Gakushuin University.

Hatoyama has headaches on both diplomatic and economic fronts.

The Japanese leader said on Tuesday he would spend a few more months discussing with coalition partners how to resolve a dispute with Washington over a U.S. Marine airbase on Okinawa.

The decision not to decide, which the top U.S. Marine officer called "unfortunate", prompted a flood of media criticism charging Hatoyama was putting the U.S.-Japan alliance at risk.

Washington wants Tokyo to stick to a 2006 deal to move Futenma airbase to a less crowded part of Okinawa as a condition for shifting up to 8,000 Marines to the U.S. territory of Guam.

But the tiny Social Democratic Party has threatened to leave the coalition if Hatoyama fails to keep a campaign promise to seek a site off the island or outside Japan entirely.

IS HATOYAMA DITHERING?

The appearance of diplomatic dithering has boosted concerns that Hatoyama will shy away from other tough decisions, including whether to keep a 44 trillion yen ($491 billion) cap on new bond issuance for the year from April despite falling tax revenues, pressure to avert a slide back into recession and the need to honour campaign pledges to give consumers more cash. …

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