Does Japan need US military Bases?
Ever since the DJP was elected the main foreign policy issue that has affected the party has been an attempt to find a renegotiate a deal for a US base in Okinawa. This has become the defining issue of Prime Minister Hatoyama’s premiership. He has less than a month until a self imposed deadline on deciding the future of the base. Japan has thousands of US troops on its soil that it pays for, however it also has one of the most powerful armed forces in the world so does it really need the US troops at all?
East Asian stability
[[Joseph S. Nye, 'East Asian Security: The Case for Deep Engagement', Foreign Affairs, July/August 1995, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/51210/joseph-s-nye-jr/east-asian-security-the-case-for-deep-engagement%5D%5D The current security framework benefits everyone by providing the necessary stability for the economic growth that everyone wants to continue and so lift people throughout the region out of poverty.
China has shown itself to be a responsible rising power.[[Sujian Guo, China's 'Peaceful Rise' in the 21st Century, 2006]] Although it probably doesn't meet western standards it has talked down North Korea and acted as a buffer between the North and South. It is unlikely to create or allow a conflict to be sparked in the region as it threatens its own stability, prosperity and security.
Indeed the presence of US troops in Japan as well as the DMZ paints a picture of a China that is indeed surrounded. Such behavior on China's part vis. the USA would not be tolerated, much in the same way the placement of USSR missiles on Cuban soil was unacceptable to JFK's government.
Ultimately, the reality on the ground does not resemble 1945, but the presence of US troops on Japanese soil, as well as in Germany and other European countries is a policy better suited to the Cold War, where protection from the USSR was perhaps necessary. It perpetuates reliance on US military power (and thus its perception as an imperial power), while arguably threatening the regional powerhouse of China.
The presence of US bases on Japanese soil presents an obvious target for North Korean missiles. A Japan free from US bases would arguably safer from any North Korean threat.
The US has been aiming to develop a more flexible military that can deal with global issues more rapidly. In Asia it has been advancing its use of Guam as a marine base and command centre. US soldiers do not need to be stationed on Japanese soil if one takes into account the huge military presence in Guam, Hawaii and South Korea, as well as the various nuclear equipped naval battle groups that are free to roam the Pacific. The marine base in Okinawa was due to move to Guam in 2014, but that has been delayed.[[http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/2nd-ld-us-sees-marines-move-to-guam-delayed-beyond-2014]]
Even Japan's pacifist military approach would provide Japanese safety/security, while allowing US engagement from the DMZ or Guam.
China has recently begun to throw its weight around almost demanding a monroe doctrine for its neighbourhood by trying to prevent US access in international waters.[[https://debatewise.org/debates/2195-china-should-be-allowed-more-control-over-its-own-seas]] At the same time China continues to signal its intention to develop the long arm of its military, most notably through preparations to build aircraft carriers, the ultimate platform for projection of force.[[http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201008110263.html]]
US military presence on top of its support to Taiwan only threatens China more than it does Japan or the US.
2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami
2nd biggest economy
Japan is a liberal democracy that has come a long way from its WWII days, and should be at the stage where it is able and willing to protect itself. Global issues dictate that it cannot rely on a pacifist constitution and American protection. Its army, although not battle tested, is indeed a powerhouse not only in the region, but the world. It is very difficult to measure military power today (it is no longer to measure navies only on battleships or the army on manpower) but despite Japan's army being a 'self defence force' only it is one of the most powerful in the world.[[http://www.globalfirepower.com/]] Its short and long range Patriot missiles are sufficient to protect it from any imminent threat that North Korea may pose.
In addition, Japan is already crowded with the base creating growing environmental problems. Moving the base would recreate the same issues, but in another location, namely Nago.
The dispute has already cost Hatoyama his premiership, and is likely to continue to cause trouble as long as the US maintains a base, particularly since it has never apologised for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Okinawa base is located on the site of a bloody World War II battle, and has been described as an example of American imperialism.
Ultimately, Japan wastes money funding the US presence when it could be funding the develpoment of its own military, a vital tool in today's geopolitics.
Japan has been a loyal ally of the US for several decades so the likelihood that any significant section of the population still holds any ill will over Hiroshima and Nagasaki is unlikely and Japan has shown reluctance in apologizing for it's own horrific crimes in Nan King, China during that war, even building a museum to honor the men responsible for what is now known as the rape of Nan King. Would be the pot calling the kettle black to complain about US atrocities while not admitting their own.
Ultimately, the partnership between Japan and the US is the very reason they are one of the worlds leading economies and while crimes committed by US service personal there are horrible and need to be punished, appropriately, this does not change the fact that the partnership benefits Japan as a nation more than harms it.