Tags: Japan | base | deadline | US

Japan Drops Deadline to Resolve US Base

Monday, 10 May 2010 09:27 AM

TOKYO — Japan's prime minister has likely given up on a self-imposed May 31 deadline to resolve a tricky row over the relocation of an unpopular US base, a news report citing government sources said Monday.

The report by Kyodo News agency came after a cabinet meeting and ahead of official talks in Washington on Wednesday on the dispute over the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.

Centre-left leader Yukio Hatoyama promised after his election win last year to move Futenma off Okinawa, but conceded last week that this will be impossible given that no other location in Japan wants to host the base.

Hatoyama's cabinet approval ratings have fallen from more than 70 percent into the low 20 percent range, largely due to the lingering dispute, according to two new polls published Monday.

While the row has badly strained ties with top security ally the United States, Hatoyama months ago set himself a May 31 deadline to resolve the issue -- a target he stuck with in comments earlier Monday.

"The end of May is what I have told the public, so I don't intend to change it," he told reporters before heading into his cabinet meeting.

He then met Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and other officials to formulate a plan to resolve the issue.

Tokyo and Washington agreed in 2006 to move the Futenma base from a crowded urban area to a quieter coastal part of the island. Hatoyama promised to revise the agreement but last week said he would largely have to stick with it.

Under modifications to the plan, new runways to be built at the coastal site of Okinawa would now sit on stilts, rather than on landfill in a bid to protect the marine ecosystem.

Kitazawa, the defence minister, said at the weekend that one option now is to transfer some US military drills from Okinawa to Japanese military bases in other parts of Japan.

Confirming his remarks, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told reporters Monday: "That is one of the options."

The approval rate for Hatoyama's cabinet has now dropped to 24 percent, with a telephone poll taken at the weekend showing support down nine points from April, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Monday.

The Yomiuri poll also found that two-thirds of voters thought Hatoyama would be violating his election pledge if most of the Futenma base stays on Okinawa.

Another poll, conducted by TV Asahi over the weekend, showed that approval for the Hatoyama cabinet had dropped eight points from the previous month to 20.5 percent, while the disapproval rate had surged to 63.5 percent.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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TOKYO — Japan's prime minister has likely given up on a self-imposed May 31 deadline to resolve a tricky row over the relocation of an unpopular US base, a news report citing government sources said Monday.
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2010-27-10
 
 

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