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U.S. has concerns Futenma may scuttle troop agreement

Date Posted: 2009-12-10

The U.S. Ambassador to Japan is expressing his concerns the delays in decisions on the Futenma relocation could adversely impact relations between Japan and the United States.

Ambassador John Roos, while participating this week in the bilateral cabinet level working group on how to handle the Futenma project, warned of Washington’s displeasure at the Prime Minister’s decision to defer final answers on Futenma until sometime next year. At one session, Roos opted to ask everyone to leave the meeting room so he could speak privately with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

Both Kitazawa and Okada have spoken publicly they think the decision should be made by the end of the year, while Prime Minister Hatoyama has said he’ll only made some apparently preliminary decisions next week in Copenhagen when he hopes to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Roos has told the Foreign and Defense Ministers they should encourage the government to accept the 2006 agreement to relocate Futenma to Camp Schwab and Oura Bay in the Henoko District of Nago City. Hatoyama’s senior advisors, including Kiyoshi Sugawa of the Cabinet Secretariat and a close aide, has visited the U.S. to discuss Futenma with top U.S. officials. The honorary president of the Japan Research Institute, often viewed as a diplomatic policy adviser to Hatoyama, has also visited America to meet with U.S. leaders.

I’ve never mentioned the timing to make a final decision,” Hatoyama says in explaining his apparent decision to defer final decisions until next year. While the American Ambassador signaled U.S. concerns of the delay, a top Japanese government official speaking on condition of anonymity, says Washington has told the Prime Minister’s Office it doesn’t matter when Tokyo makes its decision. Nobody disputes the fact there are significant differences between Hatoyama and Washington, but one official close to the Prime Minister says “the prime minister cites the Social Democratic opposition as the reason for delaying a final decision. However, as Hatoyama can’t find a relocation site outside Okinawa Prefecture, he wants to delay a decision until after the House of Councillors election next summer.

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