Japanese PM plans first trip to Okinawa over thorny U.S. base relocation

16:32, April 30, 2010      

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Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will hold talks with Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima on Tuesday regarding the relocation of a U.S. Marine base currently situated in a densely populated region in Japan's southernmost prefecture, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Friday.

Hatoyama's visit to Okinawa will be his first as the nation's prime minister and President of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and Hirano said the premier will likely explain to Nakaima his latest plans to build a raised facility on the coast of the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Schwab in Nago City to relocate the Marines' Futemma Air Station in crowded Ginowan City there, instead of reclaiming land from the sea as agreed by the U.S. and Japan in an agreement made in 2006.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary said that Hatoyama's itinerary from Tuesday has not been completely decided yet, but aside from meeting with Nakaima, sources said the prime minister is likely to meet with local residents on Okinawa and visit Futemma Air Station, Camp Schwab and other locations affected by the relocation.

However Nakaima, Okinawa's mayors, the mayor of Tokunoshima and local residents from both islands have protested the relocation and remain steadfast in their convictions -- a headache for Hatoyama as the U.S. see local approval as central to proceedings and Hatoyama's pre-election pledge was to move the base out of Okinawa.

"I wonder in what process the government has ended up with a plan to move it within the prefecture against Hatoyama's campaign pledge," said Nakaima on Friday to local reporters.

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