Embattled premier Yukio Hatoyama is scheduled to visit Okinawa island to resolve a damaging row over an unpopular US airbase that has strained ties with Washington for months. He hopes to appease the mass protesters by presenting a new plan to end the dispute which has damaged his support ratings ahead of upcoming summer elections. Nearly 100,000 demonstrators gathered last week to push for a complete removal of the base.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell arrived for a closed door meeting on Wednesday to discuss possible relocation areas, a month ahead of Hatoyama's self-imposed end-of-May deadline. Under a 2006 agreement still backed by Washington, Futenma's facilities were to be shifted from a city center to a less populated part of Okinawa.
Resistance to the airbase has burgeoned steadily in Okinawa, where resentful residents consider it an unfair burden for maintaining the 50-year-old U.S.-Japan security alliance. They also cite much dislike for the crime, accidents and noise associated with the bases.
Japan PM Keeps Party Kingpin, Plans Base Trip [Reuters, 28 Apr 2010]
Japan PM to Visit Okinawa over US Base Row [AFP, 28 Apr 2010]