Japanese PM seeks U.S. support over thorny Okinawa base relocation issue

11:25, April 15, 2010      

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Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama restated his pledge Thursday to adhere to his self-imposed deadline of the end-of-May to resolve the thorny issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture and will seek to gain support from the U.S.

Hatoyama spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this week in Washington on the sidelines of a working dinner for the Nuclear Security Summit.

"I strongly asked U.S. President Barack Obama for his cooperation on the relocation issue," Hatoyama told reporters Thursday morning in Tokyo.

The Hatoyama-led Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government is, according to government sources close to the matter, honing in on a plan to transfer the helicopter functions of the U.S. military facility to Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, about 200 kilometers north of Okinawa and 1,400 kilometers south of Tokyo, as one possible option.

However the mayors of the three towns on the island of Tokunoshima were previously asked by DPJ lawmaker Seishu Makino to consider accepting the base and all three flat-out refused and on April 18 are planning a rally, with 26,000 local residents, to convey their opposition.

"It's impossible," Akira Okubo, one of the three mayors, said recently. "There are issues of noise and security, and most of the residents are opposed to the plan."

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