Japan's PM says backtracking on Okinawa base plan promise not "big deal"

14:39, March 30, 2010      

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Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama indicated Tuesday that his government is unlikely to fulfill his pledge to come up with a proposal for the relocation of a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa Prefecture by the end of this month, describing the deferment as not a "big deal."

"I thought the end of March was a rough target for the government to have a proposal to be accepted by the public, starting with the people of Okinawa and moreover by the United States," Hatoyama told the press. "Putting it off by one, two or several days is no big deal."

Hatoyama went on to tell reporters that resolving the issue by offering and having the parties concerned accept a solid proposal on the issue, by his self-imposed deadline of the end-of-May, is his most important concern.

Tuesday's flippant "no big deal" comment by the prime minister, who also serves as the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) President, was in stark contrast to his pledge on Friday for the government to come up with a proposal for relocating the Futemma Air Station by the end of March.

"We will decide by the end of this month on a government plan for the relocation, which is intended to gain understanding of Okinawa, the public, and the United States," Hatoyama told reporters on Friday.

"We are now striving to formulate such a proposal by the end of this month," the prime minister also said at a news conference the same day.

On Monday, however, Hatoyama told reporters that his government was not legally bound to come up with a plan to relocate a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa Prefecture by the end of this month, reneging on his recent promises.

"There is no legal basis on which we must come up with a government plan this month," Hatoyama told the press.

Japan's ruling coalition has been considering alternative sites within the southernmost prefecture, as well as a plan that would see the U.S. military facility relocated to Tokunoshima Island located outside Okinawa in Kagoshima Prefecture, but has yet to present a single, cohesive plan to local government officials in Okinawa, or the United States.

For its part Washington's stance on the thorny issue has remained unequivocal and has persistently called for Tokyo to stick to an existing accord agreed in 2006 by both countries that would see the heliport functions of the Futemma facility, located in a crowded residential area in Ginowan city, transferred to a coastal area of the U.S. Marines' Camp Schwab in the city of Nago, and 8,000 Marines moved from Okinawa to Guam by 2014.

Source: Xinhua
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