Gates meets Hatoyama, Defence Chief over Futemma, Afghanistan | TwoCircles.net
Tokyo : Visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates held talks Wednesday with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, as Tokyo reviews the planned U.S. forces realignment and studies alternative support plans for Afghanistan in a manner that could cause friction with Washington.
At the outset of the meeting, Hatoyama told Gates that his government places "great importance on and cherishes" the Japan-U.S. alliance and expects the two countries will further develop their security ties as uncertainties remain in the Northeast Asian region.
Gates and Kitazawa are to hold a joint press conference later in the day after their meeting at the Defense Ministry.
Gates, the first U.S. Cabinet member to visit Japan since the September launch of the new Japanese government, pressed Japan on Tuesday to implement a 2006 bilateral accord on the relocation of the U.S. military airfield within Okinawa during his meeting with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.
He told Okada that the existing Futemma relocation plan is the only feasible one and called on the Japanese government to reach an early conclusion on the issue, according to a Japanese official.
Before meeting Gates, Hatoyama told reporters that his Cabinet will "take time to produce good results" on the matter.
Japan's new government is seeking a review of the pact as part of its policy to seek more "equal" Japan-U.S. ties. Under the accord, the two countries agreed to move the heliport functions of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station in urban, downtown Ginowan to a less densely populated area in Nago, northern Okinawa, by 2014.
Hatoyama has indicated that he will seek to relocate the Futemma facility outside of Okinawa, or even outside Japan -- a proposal that would contravene the May 2006 agreement that took years to reach.
The government led by Hatoyama also plans to terminate its refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan, when a law authorizing the operations expires in January. It has been working on an alternative plan to help rebuild the war-torn country.
The two-day visit to Tokyo by Gates through Wednesday is meant to lay the groundwork for U.S. President Barack Obama's scheduled trip to Japan in mid-November