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U.S. diplomats press Japan for a speedy Futenma decision

Date Posted: 2009-10-29

From both the military establishment and the State Department, American leaders continue to press Japan to confirm a 2006 Japan-U.S. Agreement to move Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from its present Ginowan City location to northern Okinawa, citing a need for decisive action prior to next month’s visit by American President Barack Obama.

The Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs is the latest to address the issue. Kurt Campbell has discussed the matter with Japan’s state secretary for foreign affairs, Tetsuro Fukuyama in Washington, encouraging him to have his government make a decision confirming the Futenma move. Fukuyama listened, and reminded Campbell at an earlier meeting in Tokyo that the matter was being addressed, and there was little more for him to say.

Campbell’s meeting follows a series of meetings a week ago in Tokyo by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who tried to convince both the Defense and Foreign Ministers of the need for a firm decision on moving the Futenma relocation forward. Gates had told both Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada the only feasible plan was to move Futenma to the Henoko District of Nago City.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly reaffirmed the U.S. position that “we continue to believe that implementing the existing agreements is the best way to ensure that the U.S. – Japanese security alliance, which is so important to both our countries and to the region in general, remains strong.” Kelly reemphasized that “we’re able to reduce the footprint of U.S. military bases in Japan, which is one of the goals of the agreement,” by moving Futenma and consolidating it on Camp Schwab in northern Okinawa.

Japan’s Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has shown no interest in moving for a quick decision on the Futenma issue. He’s spoken in the past of moving Futenma out of Okinawa, or even Japan, and now suggests he wants to hold off on decisions until after upcoming Nago City elections and further discussions with Okinawa citizens.

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