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Prime Minister sets tone for ‘military burden’ talks

Date Posted: 2010-09-16

A new round of talks on reducing the burdens Okinawa Prefecture bears in supporting U.S. troops and bases is under way, with Prime Minister Naoto Kan underscoring the need for some serious discussions in days ahead.

“Easing the burden is an urgent task,” Kan told a the group of Okinawan and central government officials addressing the issues, “and I expect serious discussions will be made at the panel. The meetings were restarted this past week at Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s request after being halted since April 2005. The Prime Minister and every member of his cabinet attended the meeting, along with the governor.

The panel will operate with two groups, one promoting return of land now occupied by American military installations, and one focusing on employment and other measures for beefing up Okinawa’s flagging economy. The panel is not slated to address any of the contentious issues surrounding the relocation of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. Yoshito Sengoku, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, said after the initial meeting though, that he believed Okinawa and the central government leadership would be able to discuss Futenma once the two sides created a relationship of mutual trust and sincere discussions.

Nakaima said later, while also talking to reporters, that Okinawa could accept Futenma talks if both sides agree to maintain focus on measures that would reduce dangers posed by the presence of the base to his citizens.

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