Japan-U.S. working-level talks on Futenma delayed: Okada

YOKOSUKA, Kanagawa Pref. (Kyodo) Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada indicated Saturday that the time is not yet right for Japan and the United States to hold working-level talks on the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture.

“We are at a stage in which U.S. Ambassador to Japan (John) Roos and I are communicating with each other” on the matter, Okada told reporters in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. “We will be communicating with each other for a while.”

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said separately he will continue to make efforts to resolve the Futenma issue by May as pledged, although he admitted he expects the road ahead to be rocky.

“There is no change regarding the difficultly of the situation from now, but we want to lead this to a final conclusion so that we will be able to gain the understanding of the United States by the end of May,” Hatoyama said.

Earlier Saturday, Okada briefed Hatoyama about his meeting with Roos on Friday, when the ambassador said the United States could not enter into the planned bilateral working-level talks at this juncture.

Hatoyama emphasized to reporters in Tokyo in the evening, “It is certainly not the case that (Roos) rejected anything.”

Tokyo and Washington were planning to hold bilateral working-level talks after the government finalized its plan on altering an existing bilateral accord on the base’s relocation.

But the United States has maintained that it prefers the accord reached in 2006, under which the facility would be moved from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to Nago, also in Okinawa, by constructing an airfield in the coastal area of U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab.