Okinawa governor says US base plan tough to accept

By Yoko Nishikawa

TOKYO, May 23 (BestGrowthStock) – The governor of Japan’s Okinawa
said on Sunday it would be tough to accept a U.S.-Japan plan to
keep a controversial U.S. air base on the island, dealing a
blow to the government ahead of a mid-year election.

Voter perception that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has
mishandled the Futenma air base row has eroded government
support, threatening the ruling Democratic Party’s chances in
the upper house election, which it must win to avoid policy
deadlock.

Hatoyama has set himself a deadline of the end of May to
resolve the problem, which has also frayed ties with Tokyo’s
key security ally Washington as they confront security
challenges such as an unpredictable North Korea and a rising
China.

“Concerns and anger that people in Okinawa have are
understandable,” Hatoyama told Okinawa Governor Hirokazu
Nakaima in a meeting at the Okinawa prefecture office, as a
crowd of protesters stood outside carrying signs opposing the
plan and shouting “Go home”.

“But as shown in recent developments in the Korean
peninsula, uncertainty remains over security in East Asia and
we cannot let the deterrence of U.S. military forces in Japan
decline.

“It is a heart-rending decision for me,” Hatoyama added,
and apologised to the people of Okinawa.
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Graphic on Japan voter support: http://r.reuters.com/myv63g
Graphic on voting intentions:
http://link.reuters.com/jev83j
For more stories on Japanese politics click
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In a brief visit on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton said North Korea’s sinking of a South Korean navy ship
had underscored the importance of the alliance. [ID:nTOE64K071]

But the governor of Okinawa, host to about half the U.S.
forces in Japan, said it would be hard to win local support for
the plan to move the base to the Henoko area of the northern
city of Nago — largely in line with a 2006 deal between
Washington and Tokyo.

“The idea of moving the base to Henoko is quite regrettable
and (accepting it) is extremely tough,” Nakaima told Hatoyama
in the meeting, aired live on nationwide TV.

LOCAL ANGER

In the campaign that swept his party to power last year,
Hatoyama had raised hopes that the U.S. Marines’ base could be
moved off Okinawa, but Washington has sought to stick to the
2006 deal to move the facility to Nago. [ID:nTOE64K00W]
Hatoyama later shifted gears, saying some Marines had to stay
to deter threats, a move that has outraged many Okinawans and
upset a small ruling party, the Social Democrats.

“We will meet with the prime minister later, but the
chapter’s stance remains (that the base should be moved)
outside the prefecture or the country,” a representative of the
ruling Democratic Party’s Okinawa local chapter told TV Asahi.

Hatoyama will meet business leaders and local town leaders
in Okinawa later in the day, but faces a tough road ahead.

Details of the new deal with Washington, including the
exact location of a new runway and the construction method, are
to be worked out before U.S. President Barack Obama visits
Japan in November for an Asia-Pacific leaders summit, Japanese
media said.

Hatoyama said the government would continue to negotiate
with the United States to lessen the burden on Okinawa, where
residents have long resented bearing what they feel is an
unfair burden for maintaining the security alliance.

“I don’t consider this as the end.”

Investing Basics
(Additional reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Jeremy
Laurence)

Okinawa governor says US base plan tough to accept