Japan, US give up on 2014 airbase relocation target: Report

Japan, US will discuss setting a new time frame for relocation going forward.

Updated: May 07, 2011, 14:44 PM IST

Tokyo: Japan and the United States have given up on a plan to relocate by 2014 an American airbase on the southern island of Okinawa which has angered local residents and soured bilateral ties, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Saturday.

The ongoing debate over where to relocate the US Marines` Futenma airbase has long been a thorn in relations between the two allies and prompted Prime Minister Naoto Kan`s predecessor to resign last year.

Kan had promised to implement a 2006 agreement to shift the airbase in Okinawa to a less populated part of island, but this plan is being resisted by residents, many of whom associate US bases with crime, accidents and noise.

Japan and the United States will discuss setting a new time frame for the relocation going forward, although dropping the 2014 target may mean the airbase may stay in its current location, the Yomiuri said.

Ties with Washington were frayed after the ruling Democratic Party took power for the first time in 2009 and then-prime minister Yukio Hatoyama tried to keep a campaign pledge to move the airbase off the island altogether.

Kan, who took over last June after Hatoyama failed to keep that pledge and suddenly quit, promised to revert back to the 2006 deal, but how and when has remained unclear.

The issue of US military bases in Okinawa has long rattled relations, with many residents of the island resentful of bearing what they see as an unfair share of the burden of the US-Japan security alliance.

The alliance has been at the core of diplomacy for Japan, whose post-World War Two Constitution limits the activities of the military to self-defence.

Bureau Report