U.S. dismisses base issue's adverse impact on ties with Japan
Dec 4 04:01 PM US/Eastern
WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 (AP) - (Kyodo) — The United States brushed aside concerns that a row with Japan over where to relocate a major U.S. military airfield in Okinawa Prefecture could have decisively detrimental effects on overall relations between the two allies.
"I think our relationship is just so broad and so deep...We of course have expressed what our concerns are. But we have a mature relationship with Japan. They are one of our most important allies," a senior State Department official told reporters.
The remarks came after the United States voiced concerns Friday as Japan appears unable to draw a conclusion on where the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station should go by the year-end.
At a minister-level working group meeting on the Futemma base transfer, the United States warned that if no decision is made by the Japanese government on the matter soon, the situation will get worse and adversely affect the entire package of a 2006 Japan-U.S. accord on U.S. forces realignment, Japanese officials said.
The working group was set up to quickly find a solution to the thorny issue of where to relocate the Futemma airfield, and both Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa had stressed the need to settle the matter by the year-end.
Under the 2006 agreement, heliport functions of the Futemma facility, which sits in a crowded residential area in Ginowan, central Okinawa, will be moved to the Marines' Camp Schwab in the less populated city of Nago, northern Okinawa, by 2014.
The accord also involves transferring 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam.