Sunday, December 13, 2009

U.S. urges Futenma decision by Friday

U.S. urges Futenma decision by Friday

Satoshi Ogawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent

WASHINGTON--The United States urged Japan on Friday to decide by the coming Friday whether it will implement the current plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, citing the need to compile its fiscal 2011 budget, a Japanese lawmaker has said.

Mikio Shimoji, the policy research committee head of the People's New Party, a junior partner in the Democratic Party of Japan-led coalition, discussed the Futenma issue with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and other U.S. officials at the State Department in Washington on Friday.

According to Shimoji, the U.S. side indicated that if the Japanese government would not accept the current plan, the U.S. government could not request a budget allocation for the planned transfer of 8,000 U.S. marines based in Okinawa Prefecture to Guam in the budget compilations for fiscal 2011, which cover October 2010 through September 2011.

Shimoji is expected to relay the U.S. stance to Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama after returning to Japan.

During the meeting, the U.S. side reportedly told Shimoji that if Tokyo could not implement the current agreed on plan to relocate the Futenma base in Ginowan to Nago, both in the prefecture, Washington could not implement measures to alleviate the prefecture's burdens as a host of U.S. bases, such as the transfer of U.S. marines to Guam and the returning of the U.S. military facilities in the southern part of the prefecture. Such measures are considered by the U.S. government to be linked to the relocation plan of the base.

If Tokyo chooses not to accept the current plan, the U.S. side said, citing the difficult budget process, the U.S. government would allocate funding originally intended for the transfer of the marines to Guam for other purposes in the fiscal 2011 budget to be compiled in February. Also, Campbell reportedly told Shimoji that he took seriously the fact that Hatoyama had said to U.S. President Barack Obama, "Trust me," at the Japan-U.S. summit meeting in November in Tokyo, emphasizing that Hatoyama had promised to accept the current relocation plan at an early stage.

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