U.S. Will Defer To Japan On Moving Okinawa Base

New York Times
By Martin Fackler and Elisabeth Bumiller
January 13, 2011

TOKYO — Striking a conciliatory tone on an issue that has divided Japan and the United States, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday that the Obama administration would follow Tokyo’s lead in working to relocate an American air base on Okinawa.

During talks with Japanese leaders in Tokyo, Mr. Gates said he also discussed a sophisticated new antimissile system that the United States is jointly developing with the Japanese, and the two nations’ response to North Korea’s recent military provocations against the South.

But a top item on the agenda was the relocation of the United States Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, an emotional issue here that drove an uncharacteristic wedge between the allies last year when the prime minister at the time, Yukio Hatoyama, wavered on whether to keep the base on Okinawa.

While the two nations finally agreed in May to relocate the noisy helicopter base to a less populated part of Okinawa by 2014, local resistance has made that time frame look increasingly unrealistic. …

On Thursday, Mr. Gates said the administration did not want the Futenma issue to overshadow the countries’ overall security alliance, which last year reached its 50th anniversary. He signaled that the United States was willing to be flexible in allowing Tokyo to resolve the domestic political resistance to the relocation plan. …

Read on: www.nytimes.com/2011/01/14/world/asia/14military.html