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Friday, May 7, 2010

Base move not party pledge, Hatoyama says

Staff writer

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama denied Thursday he has backpedaled on the relocation of Futenma air station, stressing the initial proposal to move the U.S. Marine base outside Okinawa Prefecture was his personal goal and not a pledge made by his party.

The Democratic Party of Japan's pledge "is to review the realignment of U.S. bases and alleviate the burden on Okinawa Prefecture," Hatoyama told reporters. He insisted that removing the air station from the prefecture — a sentiment he has repeated since last summer's election — is "a personal comment made by myself."

During a visit to Okinawa Prefecture on Tuesday, Hatoyama asked local government officials to accept that the base cannot be completely removed from the island, as he had hoped.

"My statements are not flip-flopping," Hatoyama said after being questioned over the government's apparent inability to deliver on his promise.

Speaking in support of the prime minister, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told a news conference that Hatoyama was merely pointing out there was nothing in either the agreement between the ruling coalition parties or in the DPJ manifesto regarding the relocation of Futenma outside Okinawa.

"We need to ask Okinawa to shoulder a part of the operations (of Futenma)" because an area suitable for a complete relocation couldn't be found, Hirano acknowledged.

Members of the ruling coalition voiced disappointment.

Cabinet member Mizuho Fukushima, who leads the pacifist Social Democratic Party, intimated that she might pull out of the ruling coalition if Futenma is relocated within Okinawa.

"The government should state clearly to the United States that Okinawa is not an option," Fukushima, who made the rounds of TV programs Thursday, said.

While threatening to make a "grave decision" if Hatoyama fails to deliver on his earlier promises, the SDP chief said her party will focus on revising the current proposals by the government and try to move Futenma out of Japan.

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The Japan Times

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