Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama reaffirmed Thursday his administration will formulate a plan for the relocation of a US Marine base in Okinawa Prefecture , southern Japan, by the end of this month.
“We will try to gain understanding from the US government as well as the people of Okinawa about the base relocation issue,” Hatoyama told reporters.
Asked whether the government will negotiate with the US government based on two relocations plans, Hatoyama only answered, “We are in the process of reviewing an alternative relocation site and will finalize the plan by the end March.
Tokyo and Washington have been at odds over the plan for moving the US Marines’ Futemma Air Station in Okinawa, some 1,500 km south of Tokyo. Hatoyama, who established a new government in September 2009, has pledged that he will reach a final agreement with the US by May 31 on the new relocation plan.
On Tuesday, Hatoyama played down speculation that the last-minute cancellation of a visit to Japan by the top US diplomat for Asia was related to the relocation issue. The US government said Monday that Assistant Kurt Campbell, the Assistant Secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, has cancelled his planned visit to Japan due Wednesday. It is rare that a senior US diplomats cancel a planned trip to Japan at the last minute.
Under the agreement between Japan’s previous government and the US reached in 2006, Washington will move the air base, currently located in a crowded residential area in Okinawa Prefecture, to a remote area of Nago City, also in the same prefecture by 2014. The deal also includes the transfer of around 8, 000 Marines to from Okinawa to the US territory of Guam.
During the election campaign last summer, he vowed to move the base out of Okinawa or even outside Japan to lessen the heavy US military presence there, where local residents have been angered by aircraft noise, accidents and crimes committed by US troops. However, the government is struggling to pick up the alternative site, while the US has been pressing Tokyo to stick to the existing plan, saying it is the best.