Ruling bloc pair to delay Futenma proposals

Kyodo News

The administration says its task force on finding a relocation site for the Futenma military base will postpone having two of the three coalition parties present their proposals at a meeting Wednesday, ruling bloc lawmakers said.

The development came shortly after the Democratic Party of Japan and its two coalition partners agreed Tuesday to spend more time coordinating their views on the relocation issue.

The Social Democratic Party and Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) were originally scheduled to present their ideas on where to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is now in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, during Wednesday’s meeting.

The Diet affairs chiefs of the three parties asked Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, who chairs the task force, to postpone the meeting, but the two sides agreed the meeting will be held Wednesday as scheduled without having the SDP and Kokumin Shinto unveil their relocation ideas, the lawmakers said.

Earlier in the day, Kenji Yamaoka, the DPJ’s Diet affairs chief, and his counterparts in the SDP and Kokumin Shinto agreed the task force should meet after the parties coordinate their views “sufficiently,” he told reporters.

At their talks, SDP Diet affairs chief Kantoku Teruya took a cautious stance about naming candidate sites at Wednesday’s meeting, while Yamaoka expressed concerns that if the task force proposes the ideas as scheduled, the opposition may attack the ruling bloc for lack of coordination, which would then affect the ongoing Diet debate on the fiscal 2010 budget, participants said.

Some lawmakers in the two minor coalition parties have complained that the DPJ has not presented its own ideas on the relocation issue.

There has been speculation the task force may serve simply as a place for the two minor parties to voice their views while the DPJ works on its own to find an alternative to the 2006 Japan-U.S. agreement to move the Futenma base to a less densely populated part of Okinawa.

Residents have long called for removal of the base, saying U.S. helicopters cause noise pollution and pose a hazard.

The task force was set up late last year on the heels of a threat by SDP chief Mizuho Fukushima to leave the coalition if the government decided to move the Futenma facility within Okinawa in accordance with the existing plan.

The SDP traditionally advocates pacifist policies, calling for the scaling down of U.S. military bases in Japan, particularly those in Okinawa.