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PM in no hurry to decide Futenma issues

Date Posted: 2009-10-22

Japan’s new Prime Minister says “we can’t decide yet” what to do about relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, and explains he has more important things to worry about right now, and notes it may take until next summer to make decisions on the Okinawa issue.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama says he’d like to “see the election of the next Nago City mayor and also the results of the Okinawa Prefecture governor’s election next year, and then “see what Nago City citizens think, and what Okinawa Prefecture people think about transferring the Futenma Air Station.” The Prime Minister says he wants to “listen to people’s opinions, and then discuss everything after that with America..”

The Prime Minister says a priority for him right now is Afghanistan. “First we want to think about support for Afghanistan, and happy messages to give to the people there.” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was meeting with Hatoyama’s senior leaders Tuesday and Wednesday, and Afghanistan and the Indian Ocean refueling issue were high on the list of topics for discussion.

The relocation of Futenma to northern Okinawa’s Henoko and Camp Schwab area, meanwhile, continues on track. Money for the move is in the budget, and plans still call for the new airfield to be completed by 2013. Okinawa’s governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, says he’ll approve the reclamation necessary for the project, provided the U.S. adjust the runway locations a bit farther out into the Oura Bay. Reports floating in Washington and Tokyo suggest the U.S. may be willing to finally agree to that, provided the Japanese government formally makes a request.

“The American government attitude is the same as before,” an American spokesman has said this week, “Our basic attitude is to keep the basic agreements between the two countries as they are, but we do still have many ideas.” Hatoyama says he’s going to consider the decision, but plans to wait until next summer.”

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