Japan PM in no hurry on US base relocation deal
Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said on Sunday he was in no hurry to make a decision on relocating a controversial US military base in Japan before President Barack Obama's visit next month.
Speaking to Japanese media in the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin, where he was attending a summit of Asian nations, Hatoyama said: "I will make the final decision after listening to a variety of opinions.”
"I don't think I have to hurry up to make the decision before President Obama visits Japan" on November 12-13, he said, as quoted by Jiji Press.
The issue of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Base on Okinawa has clouded Japan's security ties with its most important ally after Hatoyama's centre-left government took power in September, ending half a century of conservative rule.
His government has said it will review a 2006 agreement to move the base from a crowded urban area to a coastal area by 2014, but has also suggested the facility may be moved off Okinawa entirely.
Washington has increased pressure on Japan over the issue, with Defence Secretary Robert Gates bluntly telling Tokyo last week to "move on" quickly with the agreed plan to move the base to a coastal area.
Japan's Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said on Friday the Futenma Air Base should not be moved off Okinawa but could be merged with other US facilities on the island, possibly angering both Washington and residents.
Hatoyama said on Sunday that Okada had presented only "one option" that was still being considered.
He said moving the base off Okinawa "is not still off the table" and "we are still at the stage of reviewing options. Of course, it will take some time."
The United States, which occupied Japan after its defeat in World War II, now has 47,000 troops stationed there, more than half of them on Okinawa, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
Their presence has often caused friction with the local community, especially when American servicemen have committed crimes.