Futenma scuttles visit by Campbell

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell has canceled his talks with Japanese government officials, scheduled for Wednesday, the U.S. government said Monday, fueling speculation that the decision is linked to a stalemate over the relocation of a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa.

Campbell was scheduled to visit Japan during his current Asian trip, which has included stops in Singapore, Malaysia, Laos and Indonesia.

With chances for substantive progress on the matter slim in the near term, some observers have interpreted the abrupt cancellation of the visit as a calculated move.

Campbell’s trip to Japan will be rescheduled for a future date, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip Crowley told a press briefing.

The State Department spokesman said Campbell’s visit to Japan was canceled due to a change in his travel plans. But it is rare for a senior U.S. diplomat to cancel a planned visit at the last minute.

A senior State Department official said Campbell, who left Washington on March 7, also canceled his second visit to Thailand following one last week, due apparently to unrest in the country.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, asked by reporters in Tokyo if he believes Campbell’s abrupt cancellation is related to the stalled base relocation issue, said only, “Mr. Campbell’s matter does not fall under our category.”

Campbell, who is in charge of East Asian and Pacific affairs, had been expected to exchange views with Japanese officials over the contentious issue of relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.