The government will work to reduce the U.S. military presence in Okinawa by searching for alternative host cities elsewhere in Japan, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Friday.

But Koizumi said he realizes that municipal governments will likely oppose any move to relocate the U.S. forces to their neck of the woods.

“The government would consult municipalities in advance. If they agreed, we would then negotiate with the U.S.,” he said.

Later in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a news conference that the government has already asked the U.S. to reduce Okinawans’ burden, but the two sides have not discussed any specific relocation plans. Okinawa is host to a large number of U.S. military bases.

Residents of Okinawa, the site of fierce ground battles during the last days of World War II, strongly oppose the presence of the U.S. military.

Many residents have called for the relocation of bases, particularly the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, central Okinawa.

“The prime minister’s intention (to push for base relocation) is very strong,” said a senior government official speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said the government would not disclose the names of the municipalities it will negotiate with because that would draw strong protests from residents of the proposed host cities.

Separately, Koizumi said the government will seek to submit postal reform bills to the Diet next March and try to get them enacted by the end of 2005.

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