Prime Minister Naoto Kan, faced with strong opposition in Okinawa, hinted Monday it will be months before he finalizes a plan for relocating the Futenma air base.
During his first full Diet debate since taking office in June, Kan said relocating the U.S. base is one of the major issues facing his Cabinet.
But he also said, “Including securing understanding from Okinawa, I recognize that several more processes will be needed,” suggesting that a comprehensive plan for the relocation won’t be worked out before the Okinawa gubernatorial election Nov. 28.
The administration is currently trying to find ways to transfer the heliport functions of the base located in a crowded residential area of Ginowan to the less densely populated Henoko district at Camp Schwab in Nago by 2014 in line with an agreement reached by Tokyo and Washington in late May.
Despite the accord, opposition to keeping the base within the prefecture remains strong.
“It is not that we will promptly put our decisions into action by starting construction,” Kan said, referring to the accord, which also states that experts from the two countries will complete a study on the specifics of building the replacement facility by the end of August.
Kan told reporters in the evening he won’t ignore public opinion in Okinawa.
DPJ election day
The Democratic Party of Japan said Monday it will hold its presidential election Sept. 14.
All members and supporters of the party, estimated at nearly 345,000, will take part in the party’s full-scale presidential race since 2002, when it was in the opposition. Campaigning will kick off Sept. 1.
The DPJ agreed on the schedule at an executive meeting, Secretary General Yukio Edano said.
Naoto Kan, who took over from Yukio Hatoyama as prime minister and DPJ president in June, has said he will fight to remain the ruling party’s top dog.
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