Japanese Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazwa said on Tuesday that May was the deadline to rule the fate of controversial US military base on the southern island of Okinawa which Washington presses.
His comments came hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton summoned Japan's ambassador to an unscheduled meeting in Washington, at which media said she "urged Tokyo to implement the existing plan."
Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki told reporters after his unusual meeting with Clinton that she had emphasised the importance of U.S.-Japan relations, but Japanese media said she had pressed for implementation of the current plan.
"We have set May as the cut-off point, but that does not mean we'll be satisfied with doing it by then," a defence ministry spokeswoman quoted Kitazawa as telling reporters in Tokyo. "It means we should do it as soon as possible."
He added that he believed all three ruling coalition parties had the same schedule in mind.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said on Wednesday he wanted a plan to move a controversial U.S. military base on the southern island of Okinawa completed by 2014, in line with a 2006 agreement with Washington.
Hatoyama had said on Tuesday he needed several more months to discuss alternative locations for the base with his party's two coalition allies.
The centre-left government led by Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to power in September.
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.
The United States wants to shift the Futenma base to a less crowded part of the island, but local residents say it should be moved off the island entirely, a view Hatoyama backed during his election campaign.
Last Mod: 22 Aralık 2009, 11:58