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NAHA, Okinawa — With Japan’s House of Representatives election Sunday, a Cabinet secretary sought Tuesday to soften comments about Marines on Okinawa.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said that Shinzo Abe, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, did not mean to say Japan should tolerate a permanent stationing of Marines when he criticized comments made by Democratic Party leader Naoto Kan during a campaign swing through Okinawa.

“Security in the Far East can be maintained without U.S. bases in Okinawa and the Marines stationed there,” Kan said during a Saturday news conference. “We are eyeing having them moved out of Japan.”

“Mr. Kan, who says unilaterally that the U.S. Marines should get out, lacks the awareness of Japan’s security,” Abe said, according to Japanese news reports.

“Can Japan replace the United States in ensuring security in the Far East? There is no way that can be done.”

What Abe meant to say, Fukuda said Tuesday, was that under the current situation there is no substitute for the U.S. troop presence.

“The secretary general said there is no international environment for now where a possible realignment of U.S. forces is being considered in connection with the need for such forces,” Fukuda said, according to Kyodo News service.

It was not the only backtracking taken recently by Japanese politicians.

In Yokohama, Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa said he did not mean to call all foreigners “sneaky thieves” during a campaign speech in support of a candidate running for a local House seat.

He said he meant to say that “some, not all” foreigners are sneaky thieves.

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