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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The party expected to topple the party that has ruled Japan for more than 50 years has backed away from previous stands against the current U.S.-Japan military partnership.

The Japan Democratic Party, part of an opposition party coalition, issued a platform Monday evening that spells out several key areas it intends to pursue should it win the Aug. 30 Lower House elections.

However, it eliminated any mention of its previously stated opposition to plans to move air operations from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located in the heart of an urban area, to a new airport on rural Camp Schwab. In the past, the party called for moving Marine air operations somewhere outside Okinawa.

It also watered down its previous demands for a radical revision of the status of forces agreement and to the amount of money spent by Japan to support the U.S. bases. Instead, it announced it would "propose a revision of the status of forces agreement and review the planned realignment and the presence of the U.S. military in Japan."

In other military matters, the platform dropped the party’s opposition to the use of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force to engage in refueling U.S. ships in the Indian Ocean and the dispatch of destroyers to prevent piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Under its "Foreign Relations" section of the platform the party promises to "build a close and equal relations with the United States as the foundation of Japan’s foreign policy … we will positively undertake Japan’s responsibilities while sharing roles with the Unites States."

U.S. officials were unavailable for comment on the platform Monday evening. Lt. Gen. Edward Rice, commander of U.S. Forces Japan, said Thursday that the present realignment plan, which includes the Futenma relocation and transferring 8,000 Marines and their families to Guam in 2014, offers the best solution to move U.S. troops from densely populated areas in Japan.

"It’s not maybe everything that everybody wanted," Rice said. "But it certainly is progress in terms of both providing for the continued defense of Japan and security in the region and decreasing the impact of the presence of U.S. forces on the local communities."

U.S. officials have said that the relocation of Marine air operations to Camp Schwab is key to the move of Marines to Guam and the eventual closing of several Marine bases in southern Okinawa.

"Policies on foreign relations, including U.S. military issues, were left ambiguous because their priority at this time is to appeal to voters whose interests are elsewhere," said Masaaki Gabe, professor of international relations at the University of the Ryukyus. "Right now their priorities are domestic issues."

Besides, it would be difficult to change plans already agreed to by both countries, he said.

"The plans have been already moving forward and it would be very difficult for them to make changes now," Gabe said, adding that the DPJ could always adopt platform changes next July when the election for the Diet’s Upper House is scheduled.

"At this time, they would rather leave the realignment issue to tackle later," he said. "Not at this time when winning the majority seats is their utmost priority."

Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.


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