Hatoyama to Obama on protracted Futenma base relocation: Just trust me

by Jun Hongo

With negotiations on the relocation of a U.S. base in Okinawa snagged, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama revealed Thursday he asked U.S. President Barack Obama for a little faith in his Democratic Party of Japan government.

“I told (Obama) that there are strong feelings” in Okinawa regarding the 2006 agreement on the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Hatoyama said, referring to a conversation he had with Obama during their summit last week in Tokyo.

“But we want to draw a quick conclusion as fast as possible. So, (I told him) ‘trust me,’ ” Hatoyama said.

Obama replied that he has faith in the Japanese government, Hatoyama said.

But while Hatoyama expressed confidence that there are no suspicions between Tokyo and Washington, negotiations have stalled, with the U.S. asking for quick implementation of the previously agreed deal.

Hatoyama has indicated a ministerial working group will help untie the Futenma relocation knot.

But he raised eyebrows last week when he said the group is not working under the assumption that the 2006 accord will be put into practice.

Hatoyama also hinted that the government will not reach a decision on the relocation until after Nago’s mayoral election in January.

The 2006 accord stipulates that Futenma’s flight operations will be transferred to a new airfield to be built on the shores of Nago by 2014. The realignment also includes moving 8,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam, which Washington has warned could be delayed if the Futenma transfer does not proceed as planned.