Japan's premier ruled out a plan for a new US airbase on Okinawa island Saturday, on the eve of a mass rally against the planned facility, in a row that has soured ties with Washington for months.
The centre-left Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama last year launched a review of a 2006 pact to move an unpopular US base from a crowded city area of the southern island to a quieter coastal area, where locals also oppose it.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Tokyo had agreed to broadly stick with the original plan, in an online report published a day before 100,000 people on Okinawa were expected to protest against the US military presence.
Hatoyama, whose approval ratings have dived into the 20-percent range amid the long-festering row, denied the report and said he rejected the plan to build the replacement US airbase in Okinawa's coastal area of Henoko.
"It must never happen that we accept the existing plan," Hatoyama told reporters in televised comments, effectively scrapping the agreement to move the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma there in coming years.
Building the new base — with runways that would destroy a fragile marine habitat — would be "blasphemy against nature," Hatoyama said, according to the Jiji Press news agency.
The comments were the latest twist in an issue that started when Hatoyama's government took power in September, ending more than half a century of conservative rule and vowing "more equal" relations with Washington.
Hatoyama and his left-leaning allies pledged to ease the burden of the people of Okinawa, who have since World War II hosted a heavy US military presence and often complained of noise and frictions with American soldiers...
Saturday, April 24, 2010
PM Hatoyama on eve of historic Okinawan rally: Building a base — with runways that would destroy a fragile marine habitat — would be "blasphemy against nature."
AFP reports that Prime Minister Hatoyama has ruled out the 2006 Bush-Koizumi agreement to build a U.S. military base in an environmentally sensitive area of Okinawa. Their proposal called for the destruction of the habitat of the federally protected Okinawan dugong, a critically endangered species.