President Barack Obama said the U.S. and Japan would work quickly to resolve a dispute over American military bases on Okinawa, one that Washington thought was resolved three years ago. But it won’t happen immediately.
Before Obama’s arrival, officials in Washington and Tokyo agreed that he and Hatoyama would skate over the details of the issue, and that a committee created by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada would try to sort it out, according to The Washington Post.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had said previously that he wanted to wait until possibly next year to resolve the issue of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Hatoyama has suggested moving the base off Okinawa altogether, while the U.S. wants to move it to a more remote location on the island, as part of a 2006 agreement on relocating about 50,000 American troops in Japan, including 8,000 Marines who would move to Guam.
But the United States has consistently resisted efforts to reopen the agreement, a sentiment expressed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a recent swing through the region.
Hatoyama said the issue must be settled quickly because delay would only cause it to fester. The comment seemed to suggest he was moving closer to the U.S. position.
The dispute is part of a key political commitment — greater Japanese assertiveness in U.S. relations — that helped Hatoyama and his left-of-center Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) win a landslide election in August.