US territory offers to host troops from Japan: reports
AFP – 4 hours ago
TOKYO — A US-administered Pacific island territory has offered to take some of the US troops relocating from Japan amid a row between Washington and Tokyo over a military base, reports said Thursday.
The governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands made the offer when he met a Japanese delegation in the US territory of Guam Wednesday, Jiji Press and other news reports said.
The United States and Japan in 2006 reached an agreement to shift thousands of US troops to Guam from Okinawa, where the heavy presence of US forces has long led to frictions with the local community.
But Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama launched a review of a key part of the deal -- the status of Futenma air base, which was to be moved from a busy urban area to reclaimed land off a quiet Okinawan village.
Some allies of Hatoyama want the air base removed entirely.
"I asked if both Saipan and Tinian can shoulder the burden of Okinawa, and the governor told us he welcomes it," said Mikio Shimoji, a senior politician from the People's New Party -- one of the two junior partners of the ruling coalition, according to Jiji.
Saipan and Tinian are two of the commonwealth's islands.
Benigno Fitial, the commonwealth's governor, was also quoted by Japanese news agency Kyodo News as telling reporters: "We welcome anything that will benefit the commonwealth."
Tinian Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz separately told Kyodo that the island can accept the Marine units, but that it needed full backing from Washington on the issue.
On Thursday, the Japanese delegation inspected Andersen Air Force Base and other US military facilities in Guam.
The United States opposes revisions to the deal, saying Futenma's facilities are a military necessity. The United States stations some 47,000 troops under a security alliance with Japan.