Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Budget may cover part of Futenma accord

Budget may cover part of Futenma accord

Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009
Kyodo News

The government may allocate funds for the relocation of a U.S. Marine base in the fiscal 2010 national budget before finalizing its stance on where the base should eventually be relocated, a high-ranking government official said Wednesday.

The possible budgeting for a new facility that would replace the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa reflects Tokyo's concerns that the United States may perceive Japan as having reneged on the bilateral accord stipulating the relocation.

"The budget and the conclusion on a relocation facility are separate issues," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The government plans to compile by year's end the budget for the new fiscal year starting in April.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Wednesday the government will decide whether to allocate funds for the replacement facility, which, under the bilateral accord, would be built in Nago, Okinawa, after deliberating the issue at a ministerial committee consisting of the leaders of the three coalition parties.

"The allocation in the budget for the next fiscal year will be decided after policies are set at the ministerial committee on basic policy among the three parties," Hirano said at a news conference.

Hirano left open the possibility that the government may do the allocation on a temporary basis, given that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has yet to make a final decision on the relocation.

"We have yet to decide what kind of political judgment we should make," Hirano said.

The revisiting of the proposed relocation under the 2006 bilateral accord has strained Japan-U.S. relations, with Hatoyama entertaining the idea of moving the base out of Okinawa or out of the country.

Washington wants Tokyo to stick to the accord, under which the Futenma base in Ginowan will be moved to a new airstrip to be built in Nago by 2014, while moving 8,000 marines to Guam once the new base is operational, as part of the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan at that time.

The Defense Ministry has requested about ¥89 billion for the cost of land reclamation in Nago and transferring marines from Okinawa to Guam in accordance with the accord.

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