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SDP chief urges gov't not to rush to conclusions on Futemma.

TOKYO, Feb. 23 Kyodo

Social Democratic Party chief Mizuho Fukushima on Tuesday urged the government not to rush to conclusions on where to relocate the U.S. Marines' Futemma Air Station in Okinawa, seeking its relocation outside the prefecture or abroad.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has pledged to reach a final conclusion by the end of May, so missing the deadline could put him and his government into a corner both diplomatically and nationally.

The SDP is one of the two junior partners in the Democratic Party of Japan-led coalition government and takes part in a government committee exploring a relocation site for the Futemma facility.

''This is a very important issue,'' Fukushima, who doubles as consumer affairs minister, said at a news conference. ''We should not move rashly.''

The Cabinet should give serious thought to the SDP calls for moving the base outside of the prefecture or abroad, preferably to Guam, she added. ''Let's do our best, not (settle for) better.''

Fukushima was apparently referring to remarks of Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, who hinted that the government may pick a relocation site within Okinawa, telling Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima on Saturday, ''We are seeking the 'best' conclusion, but we may end up drawing a 'better' conclusion.''

Hirano told a press conference Tuesday, meanwhile, the government will take her remarks as those representing the views of the SDP. But ''because the government has decided on the end of May (as the deadline), we will draw a conclusion by then.''

The ruling parties are expected to present to the government panel their views on how to handle the relocation issue, and Hirano, who chairs it, said the Defense Ministry will study their feasibility first.

''It's difficult for the panel to take a look at them from the specialists' point of view,'' the top government spokesman said. ''We need to have Defense Ministry specialists study (the plans) technically.''

Hirano indicated that an option deemed feasible would be presented to the municipality that would host a new facility under the plan before the leaders of the ruling parties discuss it.

Meanwhile, financial services minister Shizuka Kamei, who heads the People's New Party, the other junior coalition partner, suggested that arrangements can be made behind the scenes, saying they will be necessary given the differences among the coalition parties and the diplomacy involved.

''It would be strange unless there are various (movements) under the water,'' he said at a news conference. ''There are aspects that can't be made all transparent from the beginning because this is a negotiating matter.''

Since taking office last September, Hatoyama has revisited an existing plan to relocate the Futemma facility in Ginowan to a new airfield to be built in Nago, a less densely populated part of the southern island.

The relocation is a key part of the 2006 Japan-U.S. agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan and linked to the transfer of about 8,000 Marines to Guam from Okinawa. Both projects are to be completed by 2014.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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