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U.S. Envoy Demands Japan Honor Base Plan

Tuesday, 02 Feb 2010 10:35 AM

TOKYO – The United States wants Japan to honour a plan to host a new US military base on Okinawa island despite a recent election there that signalled local opposition, the top US diplomat for Asia said Tuesday.

The base issue has soured ties between Washington and Tokyo since Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's centre-left government took power in September, promising a less subservient stance towards the United States.

US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Kurt Campbell, was speaking after both sides launched talks in Tokyo on how to reshape their 50-year-old security alliance.

Tokyo and Washington in 2006 agreed that a US airbase would be moved from a busy urban part of the southern island to a quieter coastal area by 2014 -- but Hatoyama has said he is now reviewing the plan and may scrap it.

"The United States is very clear ... that we believe that the current plan was the best plan," Campbell said.

Last month an anti-base candidate was elected mayor of Nago, the coastal city that would host the relocated facility, but Campbell told reporters that matters of national security were decided by national governments.

"Yes, local conditions come to play, but these big decisions are at the level of our central governments," he said.

Campbell added that Washington was willing to continue dialogue and ready "to answer questions and explore other options."

US Assistant Secretary of Defence Wallace Gregson, who also attended the meeting, on Monday stressed Washington was ready for dialogue, but on Tuesday said only that "we look forward to the early implementation of the plan."

Hatoyama, whose ruling coalition includes the strongly pacifist Social Democrats, has said he will decide by May whether to stick with the pact or move the base to another site, either on or off the island.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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TOKYO – The United States wants Japan to honour a plan to host a new US military base on Okinawa island despite a recent election there that signalled local opposition, the top US diplomat for Asia said Tuesday.
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2010-35-02
Tuesday, 02 Feb 2010 10:35 AM
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