While this throws a spanner in the works, I think Ozawa is right on this one – not necessarily because of the moral “rightness” of the cause, or the need to send the US a “message” about Japan wanting a more independent foreign policy (I think the message has been heard), but simply that it would be very disadvantageous at the polls and not just for consistency reasons. I have thought for some time that the Futenma issue over and above everything else is an opportunity for a Japanese government to show that they can indeed engage in Real Politik and use their influence to competently achieve a substantial negotiated outcome. If they were not confident that they would get an outcome which involves moving the base of Okinawa at least, then I really feel that they should not have gone down that road. Not only does it make them look somewhat incompetent, but the message that has been sent is that Japanese governments are going to unpredictably stand up now and then on certain issues – it does not demonstrate what the rules of engagement are going to be for these “fights”. In fact it just makes the government look petty.
Moving the base off Okinawa would look like a genuine “victory” from a realist point of view, and from the “alliance maintenance” point of view a “not in Okinawa” line actually is substantive enough as a principle to show that the government may have some broader principles to fall back on when potentially “jeopardising” the alliance, rather than allowing coalition partners to cause trouble for seemingly no good reason. Ozawa seems to understand that a “in Okinawa” solution is probably not going to be any different from going with the current plan from an electoral point of view – and at the very least going with the current plan you could say that the review showed that after all this was the best option from Japan’s point of view also – no one is going to believe that for the sub-optimal next best Okinawa option, IMHO.