Rift in Japan cabinet on US base row

Last Updated: Sunday, November 15, 2009 - 20:20

Tokyo: Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada pushed
on Sunday for a speedy Japanese review of a US base realignment
plan, showing widening differences with the prime minister,
who wishes to spend more time on the issue.

"We must reach a decision as the cabinet" of Prime
Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Okada said during a visit to southern
Okinawa island, which reluctantly hosts more than half of the
47,000 US troops in Japan.

"We cannot put it off that long," said Okada, who is
under strong pressure from Washington and many Japanese
experts to implement the existing plan.

Hatoyama, who came to power in September, has rattled
Washington by saying he is reviewing the 2006 agreement to
close one base on Okinawa and build a replacement facility in
a less populated area of the island.

The premier has maintained that Japan may instead push
for moving the base off the island, perhaps even out of the
country, to lighten the burden on Okinawa residents, who have
long complained of the heavy US military presence.

Hatoyama, in Singapore for a summit of Asian-Pacific
leaders, told Japanese reporters yesterday that he had not
promised US President Barack Obama that he would reach a
conclusion by the end of this year.

Defying US pressure to stick with the pact, Hatoyama, who
met Obama on Friday, also said that the review would not be
necessary if the existing plan was to be implemented as it is.

Bureau Report




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