Some in the Japanese government are considering broadly accepting a 2006 plan to relocate a U.S. airbase on Okinawa to meet an end of May deadline to resolve a row with Washington, a Japanese newspaper reported on Saturday.
Separately, the Washington Post reported that Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told U.S. Ambassador John Roos on Friday Tokyo was moving towards accepting major parts of the 2006 deal to move the U.S. Marines' Futenma airbase from the centre of a city to a less populated part of Okinawa.
Opposition of residents
The reports by Tokyo Shimbun and the Washington Post of movement on the deal seem likely to spark anger on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, whose residents plan to hold a big anti-base rally on Sunday.
They also come a few days ahead of a visit to Japan by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.
Okada suggested some changes, including altering the design of the runway at the new air station, planned for the town of Henoko, and moving parts of the Marine Corps facility to an island about 100 miles from Okinawa, it said.
It was unclear whether the proposal referred to the small island of Tokuno shima, where a crowd of 15,000 recently rallied against accepting the airbase.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, whose support rates have been sinking ahead of a key mid-year upper house election, has said he would stake his job on settling the feud by a self-imposed end of May deadline.
He has also said any deal must be acceptable to Washington, local residents, and his Democratic Party's small coalition partners.
One involved building the new station on a massive landfill near the White Beach Naval Facility, also on Okinawa. The other would have had the Marines split the air station between a facility on Okinawa and another on Tokunoshima, more than 100 miles to the northeast.
After Friday's meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, U.S. officials characterised Okada's new package as a "proposal" and expressed satisfaction that both countries were now working towards a solution.
The original 2006 plan called for shifting the Futenma base to another part of Okinawa, which requires legal approval from the governor of Okinawa who is expected to attend the anti-base rally on Sunday.
ReutersLast Mod: 24 Nisan 2010, 16:02