Japan PM says finalizing plan to end US base row
Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said on Tuesday he was finalizing a plan to resolve a row over a U.S. airbase by an end-of-May deadline, as he struggles to revive sagging support in the run-up to an election.
Hatoyama spoke to reporters hours ahead of the arrival of a U.S. envoy who said in a newspaper interview that Japan had presented a "serious" proposal that could enable talks to progress to a new level.
"The situation is that we are considering a government proposal seriously," Hatoyama told reporters outside his residence. "I want to put the final touches to it."
But he said working-level talks on the plan between Japan and the United States had not yet begun.
Hatoyama`s support has slumped to about 25 percent in recent polls, partly on voters` perception that he has mishandled the base issue, boding ill for his ruling Democratic Party`s chances of winning an upper house election expected in July or August.
Failure to secure a majority could mean policy deadlock just as the country seeks to maintain a fragile economic recovery while reining in its massive debt.
Under a 2006 agreement, the U.S. Marines` Futenma base was to be shifted from a city center to a less heavily populated part of Okinawa, but Hatoyama raised hopes before his election victory last year that Futenma could be moved off the island.
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