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Futenma talks not part of a Obama-Hatoyama agenda

Date Posted: 2009-11-12

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Tokyo Friday afternoon on a State Visit, but heíll not be hearing any real talk about what should be done with relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station.

Japanís Foreign Minister says ďthereís been a tacit agreement (between the two countries) that silliness, in which the top Japanese and U.S. leaders discuss the issue but canít decide on anything, should be avoided.Ē Katsuya Okada says itís unlikely his Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, and Obama will do more than touch on the issue. Okada says he and the Prime Minister believe the Futenma issue needs to be settled by a number of different people and parties, including the people of Okinawa.

Okada says itís unlikely Futenma will be resolved before the end of this year, and predicted it could be sometime next year. The Prime Minister has said it could take until next summer. Elements of the Democratic Party of Japan are exploring different options, including one proposed by Okada that Futenma functions be merged with the U.S. Kadena Air Base.

Military issues are likely to be skipped during the discussions between Hatoyama and Obama. Different factions within the government would like to see the two leaders talk about changing the Status of Forces Agreement, a continuation of Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces refueling operations in the Indian Ocean, and environmental issues, but officials close to the Prime Minister are signaling the two leaders will sidestep anything controversial, at least for now.

Futenma has been the most contentious, with Japan and the U.S. agreeing more than three years ago to move the downtown Ginowan City base to a rural setting in northern Okinawa. Hatoyama and the DPJ lobbied against the plan during the election run-up. The plan calls for creating the airbase at Henoko, after which the U.S. will shift 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam.


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