Japan delays decision on US military base

Japan on Tuesday delayed until next year a decision on where to move a controversial US military air base.

Japan delays decision on US military base

Japan on Tuesday delayed until next year a decision on where to move a controversial US military air base.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said a decision would come in several months, and that he was seeking an alternative site to the previously agreed coastal region of Henoko for the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station.

"I am thinking of creating a situation where we search for a location... and hopefully make a decision on it," he told reporters. "To this end I think we will need months."

The centre-left government led by Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to power in September.

Hatoyama has said the base could be moved off the island or even out of the country, as demanded by his left-leaning coalition partners and many Okinawans long angered by aircraft noise and the large American troop presence.

Dozens of Okinawans and their supporters on Tuesday rallied outside the prime minister's office.

"We don't need bases in Okinawa," read one protest banner, while another said: "We tell you, Hatoyama and Obama, give up on the Futenma air base and close down the base in Henoko."

Hatoyama's junior partners, the Social Democrats, have threatened to quit the coalition if the DPJ ends up agreeing to the original relocation plan.

The United States, which defeated Japan in World War II and then occupied the country, now has 47,000 troops stationed there, more than half of them on Okinawa, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Their presence has often caused friction with the local community, especially when American soldiers have committed crimes.

Okinawans reacted with fury to the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl by three US servicemen. Demands to close the base on safety grounds grew when a US helicopter crashed in the grounds of a local university in 2004.

A flashpoint has been the US Marine Corps' Futenma Air Base, located in a crowded urban area.




Agencies

Last Mod: 15 Aralık 2009, 16:48
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