Japan PM says end-May remains deadline on US base feud
Tokyo: Embattled Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said on Wednesday he would stick to an end of May deadline to resolve a row over a US airbase ahead of an election, and vowed to stake his job on achieving his policies.
The premier has promised to settle the dispute with Washington over relocating the US Marines` Futenma airbase on Okinawa island. With no sign of a deal, speculation is simmering that he might even have to step down if he fails.
"There is no change in my intention to resolve this by the end of May," Hatoyama said in parliament.
The feud has strained ties with Washington, Japan`s closest ally, and eroded support for the government as doubts grow over Hatoyama`s ability to make tough decisions and steer a fragile economy.
"It is necessary to have the understanding of those in Okinawa as well as the people of Japan and the people (living) where the facility might be relocated. And naturally, the United States needs to understand as well," Hatoyama said in a debate with his main opposition rival.
Support for Hatoyama`s government slid to 25 percent in a recent poll by the Asahi newspaper, underscoring fading chances that his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) can win a clear victory in an upper house election expected in July.
The Democrats need to win an outright majority to break free of vocal coalition partners that have muddled policy-making as Japan tries to overcome deflation and cut huge public debt.
"Naturally, I will stake my job and do my best to realize all policies," the 63-year-old prime minister said in response to tough opposition questioning.
Hatoyama declined to reveal details of his plan to resolve the row, but reiterated that he still wants to move parts of the Futenma facilities off Okinawa.
Mayors in Tokunoshima, a small island in southern Japan that media say Hatoyama is considering as a new site, this week rejected a government request for a meeting after more than half the island`s residents protested against accepting the base.
Hatoyama has a number of headaches, ranging from a fragile economy to voter concerns about political funding scandals.
Media say judicial review panels are set to hand down decisions soon on whether the premier and DPJ kingpin Ichiro Ozawa should be indicted in political funding scandals.
Both Hatoyama and Ozawa have denied any intentional wrongdoing, but public suspicions have been a key factor behind the government`s falling support rates.
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