Japan offers base alternatives to US

Japanese media have reported that Tokyo's alternative could involve the creation of an artificial island off Okinawa or the use of a different island for the base.

Japan offers base alternatives to US

The Pentagon said on Monday it "respected" Japan's request to consider alternatives to the relocation of a U.S. air base on Okinawa island, which has been a growing thorn in relations.

The comments by a Pentagon spokesman came as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met Japan's foreign minister at the Pentagon, talks that touched on the future of Futenma Air Station, which is home to about 2,000 Marines.

"We respect Japan's request to explore alternatives," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. "But with respect to any discussions or details, we'll conduct those discussions through diplomatic channels."

The dispute, which is eroding Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's ratings before a mid-year election, centers on a 2006 accord that included shifting the Marines' base to a less crowded spot on Okinawa.

During the campaign that swept his party to power last year, Hatoyama raised hopes Futenma could be moved entirely off the island, which plays reluctant host to most of the roughly 49,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan.

Japanese opposition to keeping the base in Okinawa has centered on safety concerns and air pollution tied to training flights over residential areas but has also been stirred by anti-American feelings.

Mass protests erupted in 1995 when three U.S. servicemen abducted and raped a 12-year Okinawan girl.

The Pentagon offered few details of the Gates-Okada meeting.

But, Japanese media have reported that Tokyo's alternative could involve the creation of an artificial island off Okinawa or the use of a different island for the base.

A recent poll published in the Sankei newspaper showed nearly half of those who responded said Hatoyama should quit if he fails to resolve the air base issue.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Mart 2010, 16:13

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