Hatoyama: Guam under consideration for Futenma move
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said Friday that Guam is among possible relocation sites of the U.S. Futenma air station but said the plan to keep the base in Okinawa Prefecture is "still on."
Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told reporters the same day he plans to visit Guam as early as next week to see U.S. military facilities there.
In 2006, Japan and the United States agreed to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in densely populated Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to Nago in the northern part of the prefecture.
Washington has called on Tokyo to follow that agreement, but Hatoyama on Friday, amid potential turmoil in the ruling coalition, put off a decision on where to relocate the Futenma air station until next year.
On Thursday, the prime minister instructed Kitazawa and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada to consider other options for moving the air station.
When asked about the meeting, Hatoyama told reporters Friday: "I've been saying all along, 'Is Henoko the only option? Are there any other places?'"
Asked if Guam is an attractive option, Hatoyama said, "We need to discuss if it would be appropriate to move everything to Guam in light of the U.S. deterrent power."
On the plan to move the airfield to Nago, Hatoyama said, "Of course, it's still on."
He also said he instructed Okada and Kitazawa to make "extra, active efforts" on finding new locations. He told them to continue discussions with the United States.
Under the May 2006 bilateral accord, the U.S. government agreed to transfer 8,000 Marines from Okinawa Prefecture to Guam.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in October warned that failure to carry out the Futenma move to Nago could result in the 8,000 Marines staying in Okinawa Prefecture.
Hatoyama's coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party, forced the prime minister to postpone a decision on the Futenma relocation issue until at least January 2010.
A Nago mayoral election is scheduled for January, and a victory by a candidate opposed to relocating the air station offshore of Nago's Henoko district would make it difficult to start work on building the new site.
SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima on Thursday warned that her party could leave the ruling coalition if the government decides to relocate the Futenma air station to Nago. Her party has demanded the military functions be removed from Okinawa Prefecture or even Japan.
The SDP disclosed a set of emergency proposals Nov. 25, including one to consider relocating the Futenma functions to Guam or Iwo Jima island.
On Friday, Fukushima welcomed the government's inclusion of Guam as a possible relocation site.
Without the SDP, the ruling coalition would lose its majority in the Upper House.
(IHT/Asahi: December 4,2009)