Tags: Japan | OM | Okinawa | base

Japan's PM Presses Okinawa Base Solution

Monday, 03 May 2010 09:54 AM

TOKYO — Japan's Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will this week meet three mayors opposed to his reported plan to move a US military facility from Okinawa to their island, officials and reports said.

The mayors, who previously rejected an offer to meet an aide to Hatoyama, told reporters they wanted to tell Hatoyama in person of their opposition to any US military presence on their island, Tokunoshima.

Hatoyama told reporters late Saturday he would meet the three mayors, saying he was "very grateful" for the opportunity and adding that, "I would like to meet them as soon as possible."

Hatoyama will meet the mayors on Friday in Tokyo, Mayor Kosuke Ohisa of Amagi town told Japanese reporters Sunday.

The comments came after Hatoyama said he planned to visit Okinawa, where he hopes to present the islanders with a plan to end a dispute which has strained Japan's ties with the United States, its key ally.

Tokunoshima, an island 200 kilometres (120 miles) northeast of Okinawa, has reportedly been identified as an alternate site for the US Marine Corp Air Station Futenma, currently located at Ginowan city on Okinawa.

The base was due to be moved elsewhere on Okinawa under a 2006 deal between Washington and Japan's previous government that Hatoyama's government now wants to amend.

Hatoyama, who came to power in September after promising to review the 2006 accord, has vowed to "stake his job" on settling the issue by the end of this month, amid criticism from the opposition and media over his indecision.

The United States insists that the original 2006 deal is the best to ensure Japan's security, but the issue has sparked mass rallies attracting more than 100,000 protesters on Tokunoshima and Okinawa in the past weeks.

"We think we should take pre-emptive steps to oppose the plan before the central government makes a final decision," Mayor Akira Okubo of Isen town told a news conference with the two other Tokunoshima mayors.

Hatoyama's government has proposed moving 1,000 US Marines to Tokunoshima, where their helicopters could use the local airport, local media reported.

Japan, which is committed to pacifism by its post-World War II constitution, relies on its treaty partner the United States for security. The US has some 47,000 troops in the country, about half of them on Okinawa.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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TOKYO — Japan's Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will this week meet three mayors opposed to his reported plan to move a US military facility from Okinawa to their island, officials and reports said.
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