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Japan’s government has set a May deadline for resolving where to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told reporters Tuesday in Tokyo that the majority left-center Democratic Party of Japan and its two more pacifist partners — the Social Democratic Party and the People’s New Party — reached an understanding on a schedule to review the 2006 bilateral agreement to build a new air facility on Camp Schwab, in a more rural area of Okinawa.

“We have set the deadline as May,” Kitazawa said, according to a ministry spokeswoman. “However, we should strive so that the issue can be resolved even before the deadline.”

Futenma is located in the middle of the urban sprawl of Ginowan city. Residents have complained of the noise and accidents caused by flight operations.

A review of the 2006 agreement was called for by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama after the DPJ was swept into power in the Lower House election in August.

Citing the need to “reduce Okinawa’s burden” of hosting 75 percent of the land used for U.S. bases in Japan, Hatoyama’s party promised to look into relocating Marine air operations outside Okinawa, if not outside Japan.

Hatoyama called finding a solution to the Futenma Relocation problem “as difficult as threading a rope through the eye of a needle.”

In a message on his Web site, he said he is carefully balancing the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance with his campaign promises and the demands of the two minority parties in his ruling coalition.

“The three parties will toil and sweat to decide on a relocation site … that would be acceptable, if not completely satisfactory, to both the United States and the people of Okinawa,” he said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this story.


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