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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — An interim report on bilateral negotiations to realign U.S. forces in Japan could be delayed due to internal Japanese politics, according to Japan officials.

The decision of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to dissolve Japan’s House of Representatives and hold a new election on Sept. 11 could result in a change of power if Koizumi’s ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito fails to maintain a majority of the House seats, Defense Chief Yoshinori Ono said Tuesday, according to Japanese press reports.

An interim report on the realignment talks, which would address Okinawa’s demands to reduce the number of Marines stationed on Okinawa, was expected to be released before Koizumi’s planned visit to Washington in late September for talks with President Bush.

Koizumi’s decision to dissolve the lower house came after the House of Councilors voted down bills that would privatize Japan’s postal system.

The prime minister then dissolved the lower House in order to force what is being considered a referendum on his Cabinet, according to Masaaki Gabe, professor of international relations at University of Ryukyus.

Although it is seen throughout Japan as a referendum on Koizumi’s efforts to privatize the postal system, Okinawa officials see it as a way to have their voices heard on the realignment issue, Gabe said.

“If Prime Minister Koizumi wins a majority and his administration remains, there will be no big changes in the realignment, except a minor delay in the schedule,” he said.

“But, if he loses and steps down, the realignment process would require more time because the Cabinet members would be shuffled,” Gabe added.

“While the major focal point of the election in the mainland will be on the postal service reform, the realignment will be one of the main issues on Okinawa.”

Okinawa is host to about 75 percent of the land used solely for U.S. bases in Japan. More than half of the U.S. troops in Japan are stationed on bases that cover 20 percent of the prefecture’s main island.

“The possibility is high that the realignment process would be delayed,” said Yoritaka Hanashiro, executive director of the Okinawa prefectural governor’s office.

“But, delay in the realignment process and changes in the realignment plan are two different issues,” he said.

“Speaking for the Okinawa prefectural government, we hope that all Marine Corps facilities, including the Futenma air station, would be moved outside Okinawa or Japan.”

U.S. officials had little to say concerning Koizumi’s decision to call for a general election.

“What’s happening in Japan on the postal reform and Prime Minister Koizumi’s parliamentary decisions are internal matters that we don’t have a comment on,” State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters in Washington.


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