Japan PM Noda: Relieve Okinawa of US bases burden

Reuters, Friday 24 Feb 2012

Japan's PM Yoshihiko Noda says US military bases should be redeployed across Japan to reduce the burden on the southern island of Okinawa after both sides agreed to transfer thousands of US Marines to Guam from Okinawa

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo Friday, Feb. 10, 2012. (Photo: AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Friday that the of hosting US military bases should be spread across Japan to relieve the burden on the southern island of Okinawa.

"I believe in principle that the burden on Okinawa should be reduced, and spread more widely," Noda said in an interview with the reporters covering the prime minister's residence.

Noda plans to visit Okinawa on Sunday for the first time since he became prime minister last September.

Japan and the United States agreed earlier this month to decouple the transfer of thousands of US Marines to Guam from Okinawa from plans to relocate a base on Okinawa, a step forward in resolving an irritant in relations.

The shift of US Marines to the Pacific island of Guam had been linked to progress in relocating the US Marines' Futenma airbase within Okinawa. But Tokyo has struggled to win the consent of islanders' to the relocation plan.

The latest agreement has raised concerns that the base could remain fixed at its current location, where the facility is surrounded by more than a hundred schools, hospitals and shops, prompting Defence Minister Naoki Tanaka to call it the world's most dangerous airbase.

Noda's trip to Okinawa on Sunday is to win local support for the relocation plan. Many Okinawans, who associate US bases with noise, pollution and crime, want the base off the island.

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