WASHINGTON — Japan-U.S. ties could be adversely affected if the dispute over the relocation of a U.S. military airfield in Okinawa Prefecture is left unresolved, a U.S. senior official told visiting Japanese lawmakers Friday.
Kurt Campbell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, held talks on the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station with Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers Katsuei Hirasawa, deputy chairman of the LDP General Council, and Ichita Yamamoto, a former senior vice foreign minister, at the State Department in Washington.
Campbell told the opposition lawmakers that failure by Tokyo to settle on a new site for the Futenma facility by May — the deadline set by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to find a new relocation site — would affect bilateral ties not only on security issues but also in other areas, Hirasawa and Yamamoto said at a press conference after the meeting.
Campbell reportedly said that if Tokyo fails to reach a conclusion on the issue by May, that would complicate Washington's effort to compile a budget for moving U.S. marines stationed in the prefecture to Guam and make it impossible to prepare a plan for the transfer.
He also said Japan has not officially proposed a plan to relocate the Futenma base to a land-based section of Camp Schwab in Okinawa Prefecture — one viable plan floated by the government.
— and that the two countries have not discussed this option.
According to the LDP lawmakers, Campbell insisted that the current plan based on the bilateral accord to relocate the Futenma facility from Ginowan to a site off Henoko remained the best option.
The assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs reportedly said he hopes the Japanese government will make progress on the issue in the next few weeks.
Campbell is scheduled to visit Japan as early as March 16 to discuss issues including the Futenma relocation and nuclear development by North Korea and Iran.