- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The United States and Japan failed to resolve a dispute over a U.S. military base on Okinawa island Tuesday, with Tokyo’s new liberal government continuing to resist a commitment by its conservative predecessor to move the base to a different location on the same island.

The persistent row could overshadow the two countries’ planned celebration of their security alliance’s 50th anniversary later this year, though Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed not to let that happen.

“We look [for] our Japanese friends and allies to follow through on their commitments, including on Futenma,” Mrs. Clinton said in reference to the Futenma Air Station, which is home to about 4,000 Marines in Ginowan City. “But we are also working on so many other aspects of the global challenges that we face and we are going to continue to do that.”

The secretary spoke after a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Honolulu, from where she is to begin a South Pacific tour that includes visits to Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

“Our position remains that, in terms of both the security arrangements needed to protect Japan and to limit the impact of bases on local communities, particularly in Okinawa, that the realignment road map presents the best way forward,” she said.

The Bush administration reached an agreement with Japan to move Futenma to a less populated part of Okinawa, an island about 1,000 miles south of Tokyo with residents whose reluctance to host half of the 47,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan has increased in recent years.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party, which won last year’s election after decades in opposition, pledged during his campaign to move the base off Okinawa — a proposal the Obama administration has rejected.

“This is an issue that we view as very important,” said Mrs. Clinton, who was scheduled to deliver a major speech on Washington’s Asia-Pacific policy later Tuesday.

Mr. Okada repeated his government’s pledge to resolve the matter by May. Mr. Hatoyama has been trying to “balance” his country’s alliance with the United States with more independent decision-making.

The differences between the two countries could not be resolved after the nearly 80-minute meeting between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Okada, which came amid new concerns about China’s rising military power. On Monday, Beijing said it successfully tested technology aimed at destroying missiles in midair. The test followed Washington’s decision to sell Patriot air-defense missiles to Taiwan last week, which drew repeated condemnation from China.

The 2006 “road map” agreed to by Washington and Tokyo also includes plans to move about 8,000 Marines to the U.S. territory of Guam from Okinawa by 2014, but that depends on finding a replacement site for Futenma.

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