Japanese PM says efforts to resolve U.S. base dispute to continue beyond deadline

20:12, May 13, 2010      

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Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said Thursday the dispute over relocating a U.S. Marine facility in Okinawa Prefecture is unlikely to be settled by himself-imposed end-of-May deadline and efforts to resolve the impasse will continue in June and possibly beyond.

Speaking outside his official residence, Hatoyama told reporters the central government will do its best to accommodate the feelings of Okinawa people as well as those living on Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture who may also end up bearing some of the burden of hosting the relocated U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station's operations.

"We will do as much as we can do to resolve the issue by the end of May but the question is whether we will be able to get everything done. We will make efforts in June and after on what we have to discuss further," said Hatoyama, who is also the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader.

"I heard the situation was very severe. But it is important to hear opinions and it is necessary to continue doing this," Hatoyama said, commenting on Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano's Wednesday night talks with officials of Tokunoshima Island who are strongly opposed to the idea of any of Futemma's drills being transferred there.

Hatoyama also said he will continue to seek the support and understanding of the United States on the issue, despite calls from Washington for Tokyo to stick to a 2006 bilateral accord on Futemma's relocation to a less crowded site in Okinawa.

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