TOKYO, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa indicated Tuesday that the original deadline of finalizing the details of the planned relocation of a controversial U.S. military base within Okinawa may be delayed from the August target.
Kitazawa told reporters that the result of the gubernatorial election in Okinawa in November was a significant factor contributing to the delay, as a new Governor in Japan's southernmost prefecture could, theoretically, derail the original plans and provide a further headache for the central government.
The central government is bound to an accord made with Washington and restated in May to move the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station within the island, much to antipathy of the island's leaders and local residents, all of whom have been assured time and again their base hosting burden will be relieved in the future.
"We must place importance on the election to choose the governor who has the heaviest responsibility for Okinawa," the defense minister told reporters following a Cabinet meeting.
Kitazawa added that until the election has finished it would be unlikely that any plans to move the base would be made concrete, but maintained the government does not wish to force the people of Okinawa into accepting the finalized details.
As controversy mounts in Japan's southernmost prefecture, Kitazawa announced separately that he is "positively considering" a plan to deploy Ground Self-Defense Force troops to the Sakishima island chain southwest of Okinawa Island.
The Defense Ministry said it is thinking about the possibility of deploying a 100-troop coastal surveillance unit to Yonaguni Island and hundreds of border security troops to Miyako and Ishigaki islands within the next eight years.
"Defense strong points in the Sakishima chain are very important," Kitazawa said at a news conference on Tuesday.
"We're positively considering the plan and we'd like to positively promote the plan, including mentioning it in the national defense program outline and medium-term program," he said.