Japan govt drops May deadline on US base: Report

The Japanese PM had set end-of-May deadline to resolve a row over relocation of US Marine base.

Updated: May 10, 2010, 15:43 PM IST

Tokyo: A top aide to Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama denied a report on Monday that the government had dropped an end-of-May deadline for resolving a row over a US Marine base, though there was still no solution in sight.

Kyodo news agency had said, without citing sources, that the government had given up on Hatoyama`s self-imposed deadline in the belief that it would be difficult to get the agreement of local people by then.

"The Prime Minister is saying he will resolve the issue by the end of May, that he will do his best for that," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told a news conference.

But he said it would be hard to complete a plan by then.

"It will be very tough to decide on all the technical issues and other details on what will happen," Hirano said. "But we need to set a clear direction for our thinking and on other issues, or otherwise we won`t be able to say we`ve resolved this."

Hatoyama said before a meeting with cabinet ministers on the row that he would stick to the deadline, but left unclear what form the resolution would take.

Dissatisfaction with his handling of the dispute has been one of the triggers for evaporating voter support in the run-up to an upper house election expected in July.

The Democrats` chances of winning a majority in that election are receding, raising the possibility of policy deadlock as the country struggles to maintain a fragile economic recovery and control ballooning public debt.

Disillusioned by funding scandals in the ruling party and Hatoyama`s perceived inability to take hard decisions, less than a fifth of Japanese plan to vote for the Democratic Party in the election, a newspaper poll showed on Monday.

"There is no way to raise support, so the Democrats are going into damage control mode," said Tsuneo Watanabe, senior fellow at thinktank the Tokyo Foundation. That could include blaming Hatoyama personally so as to deflect criticism from the party, he said.

Bureau Report