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Japan PM vows to settle US base dispute by May

Japan PM vows to settle US base dispute by May

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged Friday to decide by May on where to relocate a U.S. Marine base on the southern island of Okinawa that has strained ties between the nations, saying their security alliance remains indispensable.
"We will find what's best to keep our alliance with the U.S. as a cornerstone of peace in Japan and Asia, while reducing the burden of the Okinawan people," Hatoyama said.
Hatoyama, mapping out his key goals in a policy speech in parliament, said an "unshakable" alliance with the U.S. is crucial in deepening Japan's ties with Asia under his proposed plan to establish an East Asian community. Strengthening economic ties with other Asian countries is key to Japan's future growth, and such a community should include the U.S., he said.
The alliance "has served an indispensable role" for Japan and for regional and global peace, he said. "Its importance will not be changed."
He said he would decide by the end of May on a new site for the U.S. Marine Airfield Futenma. More than half of the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan under a 1960 security treaty are on Okinawa, where residents have complained for years about noise, pollution and crime around the bases.
However, prospects for finding a new location are unclear, with Hatoyama caught between opposing demands within his own party and its alliance partner.
Washington wants Tokyo to honor a 2006 deal made by a previous Japanese government to move the base to Nago, a less crowded part of Okinawa, as part of a broader realignment of American troops that includes moving 8,000 Marines to the U.S. territory of Guam as a way to lighten the island's burden.
Hatoyama says he is re-examining that deal. Some Cabinet ministers have demanded the base be moved off Japanese territory entirely, a sentiment shared by many Okinawan residents.
On Sunday, Nago voters elected a base opponent as their new mayor over an incumbent who was supportive of the U.S. military presence.
Under the 1960 security pact, U.S. armed forces are allowed broad use of Japanese land and facilities. In return, the U.S. is obliged to respond to attacks on Japan and protect the country under its nuclear umbrella.
Hatoyama also said in his speech that reviving the nation's sluggish economy is a top priority, promising to launch further measures to help small businesses, workers and their families.
His government on Thursday approved an extra budget to fund a stimulus package worth 7.2 trillion yen ($80 billion) to bolster employment, extend incentives for consumers to buy eco-friendly products, and support small and medium-size companies hurt by the strong yen.
Japan's economic recovery remains fragile and at risk of being derailed by high employment and several months of falling prices and wages. A strong yen is also hampering exports, a mainstay of the economy.


Updated : 2021-05-17 22:32 GMT+08:00