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Japan PM in deal to keep US base on Okinawa

Category: World

Published: 28th May 2010 04:48:30

Japan and the US say have agreed to relocate a controversial American military base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.

The two sides issued a statement saying the Futenma base would be moved from its current urban location to a less crowded part of the island.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was elected last year on a promise to move the base off Okinawa altogether.

His back-down is angering many local people.

"We were able to reach an agreement on the Futenma issue by the end of May," Mr Hatoyama told reporters, referring to a deadline he had set for himself to tackle the issue.

Humiliating climbdown

A joint statement said: "Both sides confirmed the intention to locate the replacement facility at the Camp Schwab Henoko-saki area and adjacent waters.

"The US-Japan alliance remains indispensable not only to the defence of Japan, but also to the peace, security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region."

In a reference to rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, the statement added: "Recent developments in the security environment of North-east Asia reaffirmed the significance of the alliance."

The joint statement is formal confirmation that Japan's prime minister has given up his attempts to move the US Marines' Futenma base away from Okinawa, or even out of the country.

BBC Tokyo correspondent Roland Buerk says that operational objections from the US, as well as opposition from people living on other islands proposed as alternative locations, have forced the prime minister into a humiliating climbdown.

The new deal is similar to one reached in 2006 which Mr Hatoyama had vowed to tear up.

Our correspondent says there will be domestic political repercussions for Mr Hatoyama.

A junior party in Japan's governing coalition has already threatened to reject the new agreement.

The perception among voters that the prime minister has mishandled the issue could cost him dearly in mid-term elections to the less powerful Upper House of parliament, expected in July, our correspondent says.

Okinawa is home to more than half the 47,000 American troops based in Japan.

Islanders have been angered by incidents involving US troops based there, including the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old Japanese girl and a helicopter crash in 2004.

Okinawa is the focal point of the security treaty between the US and Japan which has balanced military power in north-east Asia since World War II.

Under the pact, Japan - which is prevented from maintaining a war-ready army by its constitution - subsidises the US military presence while the US guarantees Japan's security.

Source:
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BBC News, 2010. Japan PM in deal to keep US base on Okinawa [Online] (Updated 28th May 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/63108/Japan-PM-in-deal-to-keep-US-base-on-Okinawa [Accessed 26th Jul 2014]

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