Japan PM says no US base deal before Obama visit
Tokyo: Japan`s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Friday said he does not plan to make a decision on the relocation of a controversial US military base before President Barack Obama visits Tokyo next week.
Hatoyama`s centre-left government, which took power in September, has promised to review a pact under which a new US base would be built on southern Okinawa island, while Washington has insisted Tokyo stick to the agreement.
The issue has clouded ties ahead of Obama`s visit next Thursday and Friday.
"I don`t intend to make a decision before President Obama`s visit," Hatoyama told a parliamentary committee when asked about the row.
Washington and Tokyo have been close allies in the post-war era, and the United States has about 47,000 troops based in Japan, more than half of them on Okinawa, where their presence has often rankled local residents. Related article: Call for environmental base plan
The premier has suggested that the contentious military facility, the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Base, currently located in a crowded urban area, may have to be moved off Okinawa altogether, or even out of Japan.
Hatoyama said Friday that US-Japan relations were not only about Futenma.
"I want to have active talks on issues such as Afghanistan. I`m convinced that his (Obama`s) visit to Japan will surely be meaningful," he said in parliament.
Hatoyama has said his government would end a naval refuelling mission now backing the NATO-led Afghanistan campaign when its mandate expires in January, but that Tokyo would instead boost its aid to the war-torn country.
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