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Japanese FM offers apology to Okinawans over U.S. base issue

12-21-2010 17:25 BJT

NAHA, Japan, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara on Tuesday offered an apology to Okinawans for the failure of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to remove the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station outside of the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa.

"I offer my heartfelt apology to the people of Okinawa," said Maehara, during talks with Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima at a hotel in Naha.

Maehara, who was on a one-day trip to Okinawa following Prime Minister Naoto Kan's visit Saturday, also sought Okinawans' understanding of the Japan-U.S. accord on the Futenma relocation.

Nakaima, for his part, said that it would be "faster" to find a place outside of Okinawa to host the U.S. base than implementing the current plan to relocate the base within the prefecture.

He told reporters after meeting with Maehara that they remained apart over the base relocation issue.

Japan and the United States agreed in May to largely stick to a bilateral accord agreed to in 2006 to relocate the Futenma air base in a densely populated area of Ginowan to a less crowded coastal area in Nago in Okinawa Prefecture.

Around 75 percent of land in Okinawa Prefecture is occupied by the U.S. military, although the tiny island accounts for only 0.6 percent of Japan's territory.

Local authorities and citizens have constantly complained about the disproportionate military presence in Okinawa, citing issues of pollution, noise, accidents and incidents of crime.

Kan is scheduled to issue a joint statement on the relocation issue with Obama during a planned trip to the U.S. next spring, although he has drawn the ire of Washington recently by refusing to put a deadline on settling the increasingly thorny relocation issue.


Editor:Du Xiaodan |Source: Xinhua

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