Japanese PM reaffirms pledge to relieve base burden on Okinawa locals

11:05, April 26, 2010      

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People take part in a rally as a part of a mass rally in Tokyo, Japan, April 25, 2010. People staged a mass rally Sunday in the village of Yomitan on the western coast of the Okinawa Island, demanding the central government relocate a U.S. marine base outside of the southernmost prefecture. (Xinhua/Ji Chunpeng)

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Monday reiterated his pledge to relieve the U.S. marine base-related burden on people in Okinawa Prefecture and rid them of safety risks posed by the base.

The premier's move came after up to 90,000 Okinawa residents staged a mass rally Sunday in the village of Yomitan on the western coast of the Okinawa Island, demanding the central government relocate the base outside of the southernmost prefecture.

In front of his official residence, Hatoyama told reporters that the rally was an expression of public will.

He pledged continued efforts to ease the burden that falls on Okinawa residents and remove the risks of the Futenma base.

Under an existing agreement with Washington inked in 2006, the U. S. military installation would be moved from the highly populated area of Ginowan in Okinawa to the Marines' Camp Schwab in Nago, also in Okinawa. The DPJ-led government has looked to review that agreement, much to the ire of the U.S. government.

On Thursday, the United States rejected the idea proposed by the Japanese government of relocating its current air facility in Futenma, Okinawa Prefecture, to Tokunoshima of Kagoshima Prefecture.

Local populations in Okinawa and Tokunoshima have also been angered by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), seeing their actions as both indecisive and not in the interests of their communities. On April 18, a massive protest on the Tokunoshima island was staged, which saw some 15,000 residents mobilize to show their defiance to the plan.

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