Friday, October 09, 2009

U.S. says not to renegotiate Futemma relocation plan with Japan: source

U.S. says not to renegotiate Futemma relocation plan with Japan: source

October 09 2009 17:59

The United States has told Japan of its intention not to renegotiate the planned transfer of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station in Ginowan to the shores of Camp Schwab in Nago, both in Okinawa Prefecture in southern Japan, a source close to Japan-U.S. relations said Friday.

The action is apparently meant to tamp down increasing expectations within the Japanese government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Okinawa for relocating the air base in a densely populated area outside the prefecture or outside the country.

The United States signaled the intention at Monday's gathering of senior Japanese and U.S. officials held at the State Department as part of preparations for Defense Secretary Robert Gates' trip to Japan later this month.

Gates is expected to try during his talks with Japanese leaders to reaffirm a 2006 Japan-U.S. accord on the transfer of the Futemma's heliport functions within Okinawa as part of a broader deal on the realignment of U.S. forces stationed in Japan.

At Monday's director general-level talks, U.S. officials told their Japanese counterparts that while being willing to listen to Tokyo's view on the realignment issue, Washington has no intention to renegotiate the framework already agreed on, the source said.

Expectations for a review of the plan were fueled in Japan after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in September that the United States was ready to talk about the realignment issue with Japan.

Another source close to Japan-U.S. relations said it would be a mistake to extend the interpretation of the U.S. diplomatic gesture.

Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan has said it will aim to transfer the Futemma facility outside Okinawa, despite the 2006 bilateral accord on the relocation of the facility within the prefecture.

The State Department expressed caution over the party's stance after the DPJ's victory in the Aug. 30 general election, saying the United States would not renegotiate the agreed-on plan.

Transferring Futemma's heliport functions is closely associated with another key element of the agreement -- moving 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

At Monday's meeting, Japan was represented by Kazuyoshi Umemoto, director general of the Foreign Ministry's North American Affairs Bureau, and Nobushige Takamizawa, director general of the Defense Ministry's Defense Policy Bureau.

The United States was represented by Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Wallace Gregson, assistant secretary of defense for Asia and the Pacific.

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