Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tokyo unlikely to reach deal with Washington over MCAS Futenma before Obama's visit

Japan and the United States are unlikely to reach a revised agreement on the relocation of the Futenma air station in Okinawa by the time President Barack Obama visits Tokyo next month, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said Tuesday.

Kitazawa commented as a senior U.S. official called Monday for "real progress" in bilateral talks on the issue in preparation for Obama's visit, following the stance taken by the new administration seeking to move the air station outside Okinawa, not within the prefecture as stipulated in a 2006 bilateral accord.

"We will likely fall short of getting everything resolved before (Obama's) visit and Prime Minister (Yukio) Hatoyama and President Obama reach an agreement," Kitazawa said at a news conference.

He cited Tokyo's ongoing review of how the two governments reached the 2006 accord to relocate Futenma's aircraft operations to new runways to be built straddling a cape at Camp Schwab in Okinawa by 2014. "It is important for us to do the (review) as quickly as possible in a matter-of-fact manner," he said.

Before taking control of the government in mid-September, Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan had been studying the bilateral accord with an eye to either relocating the air station outside Okinawa, or even outside of Japan. Obama is slated to visit Nov. 12 and 13 for talks with Hatoyama.

On Monday, visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell agreed with Parliamentary Defense Secretary Akihisa Nagashima to accelerate talks on the Futenma issue ahead of Obama's visit.

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