Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Reach Agreement in Futenma Air Station Relocation

Japan’s new Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta agreed Wednesday that the current plan for the relocation of a U.S. Marine base within Okinawa Prefecture is the only feasible solution, Defense Ministry officials said.

Morimoto, in his first telephone talks with Panetta since assuming office on June 4, was referring to the plan to move the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station from a crowded residential area in the city of Ginowan to the less populated Henoko district of Nago.

The relocation issue has long been stalled, putting the central and local governments at odds. The government has been pushing for the plan as agreed with the United States.

U.S. and Japan Move to Transfer Okinawa Marines to Guam

Japan and the United States agreed Wednesday to proceed with plans to transfer thousands of U.S. troops out of the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, leaving behind the stalled discussion about closing a major U.S. Marine base there.

The transfer, a key to U.S. troop restructuring in the Pacific, has been in limbo for years because it was linked to the closure and replacement of the strategically important base that Okinawans fiercely oppose.

The announcement Wednesday follows high-level talks to rework a 2006 agreement for 8,000 Marines to transfer to the U.S. territory of Guam by 2014 if a replacement for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma could be built elsewhere on Okinawa.

Read the rest of the story: U.S. and Japan Pave Way to Send Okinawa Marines to Guam.

U.S. may transfer Marines from Futenma Air Station ahead of base relocation

Japan and the United States are discussing the transfer of U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture out of the country ahead of the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station, government sources said.

The move comes as part of a review of a 2006 bilateral agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces in the country. Under the accord, the transfer of the Marines to Guam and the relocation of the Futenma station were supposed to be handled together.

Senior officials of the foreign and defense ministries of the two countries will meet in Washington on Monday to start full-fledged negotiations on a new realignment plan, according to the sources.

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US, Japan agree to delay Okinawa base relocation

The U.S. and Japan said Tuesday they would press ahead with the costly relocation a U.S. Marine air station in Japan but pushed back the deadline amid opposition to the plans in both countries.The delay in the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on the southern island of Okinawa had been widely anticipated. Japans government has failed to win the requisite assent of residents there, although the plans aim to reduce the U.S. military footprint on the island that hosts more than half of the 47,000 American troops in Japan.A joint statement said the relocation would be completed at the "earliest possible date" after 2014, the original deadline.

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Hatoyama Makes U-turn on Okinawa Stance

Japan’s embattled Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama faced a barrage of criticism on Wednesday after his U-turn on the relocation of a US base, with calls mounting for him to quit ahead of key elections in July.

Major newspapers railed against his decision to scrap plans to move an unpopular US airbase entirely off the island of Okinawa after months of dithering over the issue that angered close ally Washington.

“The government’s recent disarray appears shameful,” the top-selling Yomiuri Shimbun said in an editorial. “Needless to say, Prime Minister Hatoyama bears the greatest responsibility.”

On his first visit to the sub-tropical island since he took office in September, Hatoyama on Tuesday apologized for his failure to meet his pledge to remove the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Okinawa.

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U.S. says no way on relocating Futenma Base to Tokunoshima Island

The United States has rejected the idea of relocating the U.S. Futenma base to Tokunoshima Island, a contentious site favored by the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, because it is too far from Okinawa-based marine units, a government source said Thursday.

Hatoyama has suggested his government will pursue the relocation of the air station to the Kagoshima Prefecture island about 200 km to the northeast, but Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said Thursday it appears resolving the issue by the end of May as promised is “extremely difficult.”

A visit by Hatoyama to the city of Kagoshima on May 15 has been in the works, other sources close to him said, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano denied that the prime minister would go to Kagoshima Prefecture in connection with the Futenma issue.

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Futenma Overshadows Hatoyama’s One-on-One with Obama during Nuclear Summit

Japan, one of the postwar era’s strongest anti-nuclear voices, missed an opportunity at the nuclear summit that ended here on Tuesday to translate its commitment to disarmament into a premier spot on an emerging global agenda. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was overshadowed by those who came to Washington with specific ideas about how to shore up the global commitment to nonproliferation.

Although the issue of nuclear nonproliferation was identified early on as a priority after Japan’s new government took office in September, Mr. Hatoyama, who was seated next to President Obama over dinner, used his one-on-one time to discuss the relocation of the Futenma Marine Air Station on Okinawa, a thorn in the bilateral relationship.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s Missed Opportunity

Futenma deadline not a big deal?

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama says it’s “not a big deal” that he failed to meet his own deadline for selecting a new plan to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

Hatoyama told reporters Tuesday night in Tokyo he was not ready to make public the alternate sites his government is considering. He had set a deadline of Wednesday to come up with an alternate site to begin the discussions between Okinawa and U.S. officials. He also pledged to reach an agreement on a replacement plan by the end of May.

“It is not time yet to tell you what the ideas are,” Hatoyama said, according to a transcript of the news conference. “Missing the target by a day or two is not a big deal. What is important is to come up with a solid and acceptable proposal.”

There was no indication when his party might make the ideas public.

Hatoyama’s left-center government swept into power in August, defeating the conservative government that signed an agreement with the U.S. in May 2006 to replace Futenma, located in crowded Ginowan, with a new air station on Camp Schwab in the more rural northeast.

The base is planned for the Henoko peninsula and reclaimed land in Oura Bay. During the election campaign, Hatoyama said the project should be reviewed.

Read the rest of the story: Japan misses deadline for selecting alternative Futenma proposal