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.