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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hatoyama edges nearer decision about Futenma

Campbell notes 'encouraging' proposals

Staff writer

Tokyo is getting closer to the negotiating table on the relocation of the U.S. Futenma air base in Okinawa, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama indicated Tuesday.

News photo
Kurt Campbell

Hatoyama's remark followed comments by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, who told the media ahead of his Japan visit starting Tuesday evening that Tokyo has made "encouraging" proposals on the problematic relocation of the U.S. Marines' base in Ginowan.

Some weekend reports said Hatoyama has offered to abide in general with the existing plan, which would relocate the base within Okinawa Prefecture.

Asked to comment on Campbell's remarks, Hatoyama said that working-level talks between Japan and the United States haven't taken place and that the government is still holding comprehensive discussions to create its proposal.

The administration's efforts "are at a point where we want to conclude" creating a plan, Hatoyama said, stressing that his government is focused on alleviating the burden on Okinawans and removing safety risks posed by the Futenma air base.

Earlier reports said the government, which had pledged to move Futenma outside Okinawa, will only slightly modify the plan reached with the U.S. in 2006.

The reworked plan would move the base to the coastal area of Camp Schwab in Nago as agreed, but only one runway instead of two would be built, and it would be further offshore than originally planned.

The runway would be built on supporting piles in the so-called quick installation platform (QIP) method, instead of on landfill, to reduce the damage to the environment.

"If the prime minister said (that creating a proposal is in the final stage), then that is what it is," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Tuesday. "I am not in a position to deny what he said."

Opposition from people living in possible relocation sites has been staunch.

On Sunday, 90,000 people rallied in Okinawa demanding that Futenma be moved outside the prefecture.

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The Japan Times

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