Tough new legislation could be introduced in the future to help the central government override opposition from landowners and local governments when leases for property within U.S. bases expire, the government’s top spokesman hinted Apr. 2.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama made the comment during a speech before the Meeting to Consider Japan’s Future, a gathering of senior Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers. He said the current government move to revise the Law on Special Measures for Land for the U.S. Military is “a minimum step to preclude a situation in which the government continues to occupy plots illegally.”

Kajiyama pointed out that under the current system, or in any revised system, “the state has little authority to decide things when faced with a refusal by landowners and local governments” to renew forced leases. “In the future, we have to think about what the state must do,” he said in an apparent reference to a completely new law. He made the comment as Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto flew to Okinawa for a brief visit to attend an Okinawa Prefectural Government-hosted funeral for former Gov. Chobyo Yara.

Hashimoto’s government is expected to make a decision Apr. 3 on the submission of a bill to amend the land lease law to the Diet in order to have it enacted before a scheduled meeting between the prime minister and U.S. President Bill Clinton on April 25.

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