Japan's New PM To Uphold U.S. Deal

Deal to keep U.S. base on Okinawa cost previous PM his job.

June 4, 2010, 8:44 AM

TOKYO June 4, 2010 -- Naoto Kan won back-to-back votes today to be elected the 94th prime minister of Japan.

Kan reportedly plans to uphold an agreement about the relocation of a U.S. air base on the island of Okinawa, a controversial issue that led to his predecessor's resignation.

The agreement is largely in accord with what was agreed to with the U.S. government in 2006 and to what President Obama backed in November during his stop in Tokyo.

The plan includes closing Futenma air base on Okinawa, opening a replacement facility in a less developed area of Okinawa, and moving 8,000 U.S. Marines off the island to Guam.

"This is a bilateral accord, and therefore decisions will be based on the accord," Kan said today. "As indicated in the bilateral agreement, there will be emphasis on alleviating the load on the Okinawans. This is a priority of concern and this is an issue that is extremely important."

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had fought for the base to be moved off Okinawa entirely, siding with many residents who have long complained about its presence. It was a campaign promise he could not deliver and a fiasco that helped end his political support after less than nine months in office.

On Wednesday Hatoyama announced his resignation, citing the furor over the base deal and political funding scandals by his aides.

Hatoyama was the fourth Japanese prime minister to resign in four years.

Kan, an out-spoken veteran politician, was the Democratic Party's (DPJ) former finance minister and deputy prime minister.

Kan gained notoriety in the 1990s when he was health minister and uncovered a scandal involving government officials and tainted blood products that resulted in over a thousand patients to contract HIV.

Kan easily defeated Shinji Tarutoko, a candidate reportedly backed by "shadow shogun" Ichiro Ozawa. Ozawa, the party's former secretary general and a powerful politician associated with financial scandal, resigned with Hatoyama on Wednesday.

Japan's Emporer to Appoint Naoto Kan New Prime Minister

"As long as it looks as though Ozawa is in charge, the DPJ has no future," Columbia University political science professor Gerald Curtis told ABC News.

Kan also went on to win separate lower and upper house votes in the Diet, the national legislative body. He is soon expected to be officially appointed by the emperor.

As Hatoyama left the official residence today, Kan faces an economy in debt and a shrinking and aging population.

Kan said he is "willing to take up where Hatoyama left off, carrying out Hatoyama's aim to break the impasse that Japan finds itself in."

One of Kan's first major tasks will be to lead his DPJ party, which broke nearly five decades of single party rule last year, into mid-term elections next month.

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