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PM asks all Japanese to ‘share the pain'

Date Posted: 2011-01-21

Mindful of the anger of Okinawans over having to host tens of thousands of American troops and more than a handful of U.S. military bases, Prime Minister Naoto Kan took his case to the nation, asking "every Japanese person to make unrelenting efforts to share the pain and burden of Okinawa."

Kan, in a major foreign policy speech, described his feeling over the Okinawa situation as "distressing." The Prime Minister has committed to fulfilling a 2006 Japan-U.S. Agreement that calls for relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to northern Okinawa, and to sending more than 8,000 U.S. Marines from the southernmost prefecture to Guam. "The U.S.-Japan Alliance, the linchpin of Japan's diplomacy, must be maintained and strengthened regardless of a change in government," he said.

The 2006 agreement was reiterated in May 2010, and Kan says he'll maintain patience as he deals with Okinawa's leadership even as he presses forward to honoring the arrangements made by his predecessors. The agreement calls for relocating the airbase to the Henoko district of Nago City.

The Prime Minister wasn't the only one continuing to appeal for support for the deal. Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa was soliciting support through the week with Okinawa's governor, Hirokazu Nakaima. His approach to appeasing the governor hasn't sat well with other cabinet ministers, including Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who continues to support the U.S. position that the to-be-built base have two V-shapre runways instead of only a single runway. He's told fellow cabinet ministers not to aggravate the Okinawa situation.

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