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Japan PM apologizes over US base row

22 May 2010 18:44

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has apologized for breaking his campaign promise of moving the controversial US military base from Okinawa.

Prime Minister Hatoyama made the apology during a televised meeting with the governor of Okinawa.

“I apologize to people in Okinawa as I could not keep to my word,” the premier said, arguing that a decrease in the number of US forces would jeopardize the security of the country.

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima said the plan to keep the Futenma base on his island is regrettable and difficult to accept.

“The gap between people’s expectations [and the latest government decision] is huge. I expect the premier to take time to offer further explanations and work out a solution that would satisfy us,” Kyodo news agency quoted him as saying.

Hatoyama had promised to remove the base off the island during his election campaign, which brought his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to power in a sweeping victory.

However, during his visit to Okinawa, he faced angry protests with locals demanding the American base be removed from the island altogether. Last week, nearly 17,000 of people formed a human chain around the Futenma airbase.

Tokyo and Washington have reportedly reached an agreement on moving Futenma to a different part of the island.

The airbase has been under US command since shortly after World War II. More than half of some 47,000 US troops in Japan are stationed in Okinawa.

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