x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Japan PM steps down over base row

After just eight months in office, embattled the Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama has resigned.

After just eight months in office, embattled the Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama has resigned over his broken campaign promise to move a US Marine base off the southern island of Okinawa. The prime minister faced growing pressure from within his own party to step down ahead of July's upper house elections. His approval ratings had plummeted over his bungled handling of the relocation of the Marine Air Station Futenma, which reinforced his public image as an indecisive leader.

Mr Hatoyama is the fourth Japanese prime minister to resign in four years. Until Tuesday night, Mr Hatoyama insisted he would stay on while intermittently holding talks with key members of his Democratic Party of Japan. But this morning, Hatoyama faced the nation to say he was stepping down. "Since last year's elections, I tried to change politics in which the people of Japan would be the main actors," he told a news conference broadcast nationwide. But he conceded his efforts fell short.

"That's mainly because of my failings," he said. Mr Hatoyama, 63, cited two main reasons for his resignation: the Futenma issue, which led to the dismissal of one of his Cabinet members who could not accept his decision, and a political funding scandal. In that incident, two of his aides were convicted of falsifying political contribution reports and sentenced to suspended prison terms. Mr Hatoyama himself did not face charges in the case, but it tainted his image.

Mr Hatoyama also urged DPJ's powerful veteran and secretary general Ichiro Ozawa, who faces a separate political fundraising scandal, to step down as well, to achieve "a fresh and clean DPJ". "Our politics must break with money," he said. "We must become compeletely clean in order to revitalize our party." His government came to power amid high hopes in September - promising to make politics more transparent and rein in the power of bureaucrats - after his party soundly defeated the long-ruling conservatives in lower house elections.

Hatoyama also had also promised to forge a "more equal" relationship with the United States and to move Futenma off Okinawa, which hosts more than half the 47,000 U.S. troops in Japan under a security pact. But last week, he said he would go along with the 2006 agreement to move the base to a northern part of the island, infuriating residents who want it off Okinawa entirely. *AP