GINOWAN, Okinawa — Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama promised President Barack Obama on Monday night that the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma would be solved by the end of May.
Speaking to reporters in Washington after a dinner at the Nuclear Security Summit, Hatoyama said he asked for the president’s understanding on the tough negotiations to come concerning selection of an alternate site for the Corps’ Futenma-based air operations.
“I asked President Obama to cooperate in moving this forward,” Hatoyama said, according to an NHK video of the press conference. “I won’t say exactly what he said, but I just told him that we are determined to settle this issue by the end of May.”
Since taking office in September, Hatoyama’s government has been reviewing a 2006 agreement to close Futenma, located in the heart of urban Ginowan, and build a new air facility for the air units on the lower part of Camp Schwab and reclaimed land in Oura Bay in rural northeast Okinawa.
Hatoyama said he did not disclose the possible alternate sites to Obama during their informal 10-minute discussion. Hatoyama said he stressed the need to move as many of the Marine air units off Okinawa as possible.
“I told the president that it is necessary to lessen Okinawa’s burden in order to develop the Japan-U.S. alliance in a sustainable way,” he told the reporters. “Of course, we can’t settle this issue without talks with the United States.”
Hatoyama added that Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos have been discussing the issue. U.S. officials have said that the 2006 plan remains the best option for replacing Futenma but have said they will consider counter proposals.