Softening his earlier stance, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said Monday he is willing to meet with Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota Thursday afternoon to discuss the realignment of U.S. military bases in Okinawa, as long as his Diet schedule allows.

Speaking at an afternoon news conference, Nonaka said he has yet to receive an official request for the meeting. The governor has reportedly expressed interest in meeting with Nonaka.

The government’s chief spokesman, who is also in charge of Okinawa affairs, had turned down an earlier request for a meeting with Okinawa’s deputy governor, Hiroshi Miyahira, criticizing Ota for his lack of respect for former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

He said Monday that he expected constructive discussions with Ota. Dialogue over the base issue between the central government and the prefecture has been stalled since February, when Ota officially rejected the central government’s proposed plan to construct an offshore heliport in return for the U.S. military’s planned closure of the Futenma airfield.

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