September 18, 2009 3:00 am
Japan considers revision of a controversial military base relocation deal with the US to be a top diplomatic priority, Tokyo's newly appointed foreign minister has told the Financial Times, waving aside concerns that re-opening the deal could undermine the alliance between the two Pacific powers.
The declaration by Katsuya Okada, a senior member of Japan's ruling Democratic party (DPJ), highlights how the new government wants to set a more independent diplomatic agenda.
On the day of the government's creation, the new foreign minister sent supporters an e-mail saying the Futenma base relocation in Okinawa was an issue that "must be resolved within 100 days".
"I said 100 days because the talks have been much advanced, and it is not possible for us to postpone solution for ever," Mr Okada said yesterday in his first interview since the government was formed on Wednesday.
The relocation agreement has been fiercely opposed in Okinawa because of the environmental and social impact on the small and densely populated island.
Mr Okada stressed the im-portance of Japan's half-century alliance with the US and his willingness to deepen the -relationship. However, he insisted that there must be "serious discussions" on revision of the 13-year-old plan to relocate the US marine air base within Okinawa.
The- foreign minister declined to give details of how the relocation plan might change.
US officials have stressed the importance of sticking to the current plan, which is part of a complex realignment of US forces.
Redefining relations, Page 3 Editorial Comment, Page 8
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