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Tags: US | base | Japan | row

Hillary Presses Japanese on U.S. Base Row

Wednesday, 13 January 2010 11:17 AM

HONOLULU, Hawaii — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed her Japanese counterpart here Tuesday to stick by a deal on moving a controversial US air base in Japan, but got no commitment from Tokyo during the meeting.

At hastily-arranged talks with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Honolulu, Clinton said she had stressed the need to resolve the fate of the Futenma base.

But she also expressed confidence the row would be resolved, saying Tokyo understands that the 50-year-old alliance with Washington is "fundamental to the future" of both Japan and the region.

"I have stressed again today ... that it is important to move on Futenma," Clinton said at a press conference with Okada in the garden of a luxury hotel on the Pacific Ocean.

The meeting with Okada was added to the beginning of an Asia tour by Clinton, who heads Wednesday for Papua New Guinea and then continues to New Zealand and Australia.

"We remain of the opinion that the realignment road map is the way forward," she said, referring to a 2006 deal to move the base from an urban area on the island of Okinawa to a coastal region.

Okada reiterated that the new center-left government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will decide by May where to relocate the controversial base even if it risks breaking up the ruling coalition.

The new government is considering alternative sites for the base, with various options including moving it off Okinawa altogether.

The 2006 accord was part of a broader realignment of US forces in Japan and includes the redeployment of around 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

Soon after coming to power, Hatoyama's center-left government announced a review of the agreement, provoking irritation in Washington, which has long guaranteed security for Japan.

Hatoyama's junior partners in government, the Social Democrats, have threatened to quit the coalition if it agrees to the original relocation plan.

The United States, which defeated Japan in World War II and then occupied the country, now has 47,000 troops stationed there, more than half of them on Okinawa, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Clinton said the US view is that 2006 agreement offers the best solution for both the security of Japan and the residents of Okinawa.

"We want to get a decision by May because much of the rest of the work around the realignment roadmap has already proceeded," the chief US diplomat said.

"The United States has already made decisions based on that roadmap, which was accepted by prior governments," referring to the previous administration of president George W. Bush and the conservative government in Japan.

She did not answer a question on whether she received an explicit commitment from Okada not to move the base off Okinawa altogether.

"They understand our position that we want to see the realignment roadmap carried through ... but we also have an appreciation for some of the difficult (political) issues this government must address," she said.

She said she was confident the two sides would find a solution that reflects the "very best of our alliance" and provides the security guarantees Japanese want.

Okada said "we must make the alliance sustainable for the next 30 years" and beyond.

The security treaty, signed on January 19, 1960, has formed the bedrock of the post-war Japan-US alliance, under which pacifist Japan relies on a massive US military presence to guarantee its security.

Clinton will travel Wednesday to Papua New Guinea for talks on climate change and economic development before heading to New Zealand and Australia, where she will discuss similar issues as well as international security.

Making her fourth tour of Asia since she became secretary of state a year ago -- the first stop of her first tour was in Japan -- Clinton is due back in Washington on January 20.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010 11:17 AM
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