Obama meets new Japan PM, seeks progress on US Marine base relocation

President Barack Obama vowed continued U.S. help for key ally Japan to rebuild after its devastating earthquake and tsunami but also pushed for progress on a long-delayed plan to relocate American forces in the country.

Obama held his first meeting Wednesday with Yoshihiko Noda, Japan’s newest prime minister. Noda has held office for less than a month and faces domestic challenges beyond the natural disasters, including a stagnant economy and a crushing national debt. The two leaders met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

Noda is Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years. He also said rebuilding is his top priority. More than 20,000 people died or were left missing after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan that sent a nuclear power plant into meltdown. It was the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl and led another 100,000 people to leave their homes because of a radiation threat.

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