Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto indicated April 7 that his government will try in the future to grant itself legal and ultimate authority to forcibly rent land for use by U.S. military bases.

Hashimoto said the government will consider ways to take over the necessary procedures after it receives a set of recommendations in June from its panel studying the division of authority between the state and local governments. Under the present legal system, the central government entrusts such administrative functions to local governments. The panel is expected to recommend that the functions fall under the state’s direct control.

Hashimoto made the remark in response to a question by Shinshinto lawmaker Nobuaki Futami in the first day of a session of a special House of Representatives committee in charge of delivering a government-proposed bill on the issue. If enacted, the bill, submitted last week, would enable the government to continue providing land inside U.S. military facilities after leases expire May 14.

Hashimoto’s remarks came in the wake of two rounds of meetings last week between Hashimoto and Shinshinto leader Ichiro Ozawa, in which they gave written confirmation of the need to grant the state final responsibility to obtain leases for U.S. bases. Hashimoto made the agreement in a bid to garner the largest opposition party’s support for the bill under deliberation.

Hashimoto is also likely to wait until the release of recommendations from the government’s panel in June, they said. But after that, Hashimoto’s LDP may start moving closer to Shinshinto on security matters, which would, as a result, shake the current framework of ruling parties, the sources say.

Turning to the issue of revitalizing the economy in Okinawa, Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka said at the Diet session April 7 that the government will consider methods to reduce the burden of corporate tax in Okinawa “in a way that would fit in with the current corporate tax system.” Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda also said his ministry is also studying ways to “drastically simplify” visa requirements for people visiting Okinawa from neighboring Asian areas, such as Taiwan. Okinawa has been calling for an exemption of visa requirements in a bid to increase tourism. The government has been reluctant to draw up measures that would be applicable only to Okinawa, maintaining that the government cannot create two different systems in one nation.

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