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Foreign Minister says Japan will put off decision on Futenma

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Dec. 15, 2009) – Japan’s Foreign Minister, Katsuya Okada, says his country will put off a decision on relocating a U.S. airbase that could impact on the move of marines to Guam.

Reuters says Tokyo is under U.S. pressure to implement a 2006 plan to relocate the Marines’ Futenma airbase on Okinawa to a less crowded part of the southern island as a pre-requisite for shifting up to 8,000 Marines to the U.S. territory. See related story in New York Times.

Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ’had originally intended to decide by the year-end what Japan would do.

But the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Hirofumi Hirano, said the three parties making up the ruling coalition would continue to discuss the issue.

Mr Okada said that decision means there will be a delay to the original timings.

The plan to move Futenma is part of a broader realignment of U.S. troops in Japan against a background of China’s rising role and an unpredictable North Korea.

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