Japanese PM resigns over US base

The Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has announced that he will resign after just eight months in power, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.

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Hatoyama’s popularity has been declining for months, and he’s been the subject of calls for resignation from within his own Democratic Party. The straw that broke the camel’s back is the backtracking over a promise to remove a US army base from the island of Okinawa.

Japan is struggling with a huge public debt, and rising unpopularity over the stationing of US troops. Hatoyama made a promise to move the troops from the island, but then decided removing them from Okinawa altogether would be ‘impossible.’

He has seen his poll ratings plummet from more than 70 per cent to below 20 per cent.

A tearful Hatoyama made the announcement at a special parliamentary meeting of MPs from his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), telling them: “I will step down” while also vowing to

“create a new DPJ”.

“The government’s work has not reflected the public’s wishes,” the prime minister said.

“I have caused trouble for the people of Okinawa,” Hatoyama said, referring to the base issue.

“We will need to make efforts to move the US base outside of Okinawa. But the result was that we could not deliver.”

Sec General asked to step down

He added that he had also asked party heavyweight and secretary general Ichiro Ozawa to quit.

Ozawa has been embroiled in a funding scandal that has seen three of his current and former aides indicted.

The Democratic party itself only secured power last year, after a half century of Liberal Democratic leadership.

Some analysts now tip the Finance Minister: Hatoyama is the fourth straight PM to quit office after less than a year in the top job.

A Stanford-trained engineering scholar, Hatoyama has a scholarly bent that often saw him criticised as lofty and out of touch with the common people.

Hatoyama hails from one of Japan’s most powerful political and business clans, a family sometimes dubbed “Japan’s Kennedys”.

Japan is just months from a general election, expected in July.