Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Japan to decide on relocation policy today

Japan to decide on relocation policy today

Tuesday, 15 December 2009 00:37
Varitey News Staff

TOKYO (AP) — Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said Monday his government will decide on its policy on the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Futemma Air Station in Okinawa on Tuesday and convey it to the United States by the end of this month.

"We will hold a meeting of the ministerial committee on basic policies tomorrow, and I'd like to align the three ruling parties then," he told reporters, referring to a meeting of the heads of the three parties comprising his coalition government.

"I'm feeling positively about it (the meeting's outcome) and therefore think we will be able to formulate a government policy on the Futemma relocation issue," he said.

Asked if Tokyo will relay its policy to Washington by the end of this month, the prime minister said, "Of course." But he said he was not sure if he could announce the policy at the same time the government formulates it.

Hatoyama's remarks came after meeting with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Okinawa affairs minister Seiji Maehara at the prime minister's office on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the issue and make final adjustments.

Hatoyama declined to elaborate on what that government policy may be, but indicated it may be different from the existing bilateral deal on the relocation, saying "If it is the same as the original plan, we would not have had trouble from the beginning."

"I have strong feelings about seeking U.S. understanding (of Japan's policy) through negotiations," he added.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told a news conference the same day that the government's policy is unlikely to include a concrete option for a relocation site.

Under the 2006 bilateral deal, the Futemma facility will be relocated to a new facility to be built in a less populated part of the southern island, while moving 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2014.

Hatoyama's three-month-old government is reexamining the relocation plan, which is part of a broader agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, in line with a three-party agreement to work toward reviewing U.S. military bases in the country.

The Social Democratic Party, one of the two junior partners of Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan, has advocated moving the Futemma facility outside of Okinawa or overseas to reduce the burden on the people of Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan.

SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima and People's New Party leader Shizuka Kamei, who are also state ministers in Hatoyama's Cabinet, are expected to attend Tuesday's ministerial committee meeting, while Hatoyama said he will not take part in it.

In Monday's news conference, Hirano said that at Tuesday's meeting the leaders of the three parties would "recognize and share" the direction in which the government will proceed on the matter.

In the morning, Hatoyama denied reports that Japan intends to propose talks to discuss a new relocation site for the Marine airfield to the United States by the end of the week, saying, "I haven't thought of making such a proposal."

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