Okinawans protested US bases on their island yesterday, shouting slogans as the prime minister visited. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

Japanese Leader Says Moving US Base Off Okinawa Unlikely


Malcolm Foster
Associated Press at
May 5, 2010

Japan’s prime minister said for the first time yesterday that at least part of a key US military base will remain on the southern island of Okinawa, a move that could reduce tension with Washington but dent his sinking popularity and raise the ire of island residents.

A dispute over the relocation of Futenma Marine Corps airfield has become the focal point of US-Japan ties since Yukio Hatoyama took office in September promising to move the base off Okinawa — contrary to a 2006 agreement with Washington that called for it to be moved to a less crowded, northern part of the island.

But on his first visit to Okinawa as prime minister, Hatoyama conceded it would be difficult if not impossible to move Futenma’s facilities off the island, which hosts more than half the 47,000 American troops stationed in Japan under a security pact.

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