Japan, U.S. working group on Futemma issue suspended: Okada
Dec 8 04:16 AM US/Eastern
TOKYO, Dec. 8 (AP) - (Kyodo) — Japan and the United States have suspended discussions at a high-level working group set up to seek an early solution to the thorny issue of relocating a U.S. military airfield in Okinawa, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said Tuesday.
Okada said matters that "go beyond" the bounds of the working group have emerged, such as a possible delay in Japan's decision on the relocation issue and the need to take heed of the arguments of a party in the ruling coalition.
The Social Democratic Party says that unless the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station is transferred out of Okinawa Prefecture or out of the country it will leave the coalition government.
The two countries launched the high-level working group in November to seek an expeditious resolution to the issue of the Futemma relocation.
The working group has mainly studied how the two countries reached the 2006 accord to relocate the facility from a downtown residential area of Ginowan to the less densely populated city of Nago, another city in Okinawa, by 2014.
The accord is part of a broader Japan-U.S. agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan and was agreed under a previous government led by the Liberal Democratic Party, which is now the main opposition party.
Okada told a regular press conference, "The working group is suspended and we are now waiting to see whether a situation will develop in which discussions should be held again."
The United States has consistently called for Japan to abide by the 2006 accord, but Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has yet to work out a clear policy on the issue.
A government source also said earlier in the month that Hatoyama called on ministers concerned to accelerate efforts to consider a new relocation venue other than the one under the 2006 bilateral accord.
"In discussions at the working group, there have been talks about the coalition, about something like a delay (in reaching a decision) and about searching for other options," Okada said.
"These go beyond (the capacity of) the working group," he added.
Members of the working group include Okada and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa from the Japanese side. For the United States, Ambassador to Japan John Roos represents Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.