Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto reiterated Mar. 19 the need to revise the law on land use for U.S. forces in order to ensure the continued use of land at 12 U.S. military installations in Okinawa after their leases expire on May 14.

Portions of the land on which the facilities are located are owned by about 3,000 private citizens and the lease contracts for these portions expire on May 14. Speaking at a session of the Upper House Budget Committee, Hashimoto pointed out that an overwhelming number of landowners in Okinawa have renewed their contracts to allow the U.S. military to continue use of the land.

“A situation in which the land use becomes irregular due to the expiry (of the contracts) must be avoided at any cost,” Hashimoto said.

On top of Japan’s obligation under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, the government has a responsibility to the majority of Okinawan landowners, who are cooperating with the government, he said. He also said that when he meets with Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota on March 25, he will ask him for “understanding” and cooperation in handling the matter of military land use.

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