Kazuo Shii, leader of the Japanese Communist Party, has called for the unconditional removal of the US Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture in a meeting with a State Department official.
Shii said he told Kevin Maher on Friday, the director of the Office of Japanese Affairs at the state department, that the recent visit by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to Okinawa fueled anger among the people in the prefecture and the only solution to the issue is to carry out an unconditional removal of the US base.
But Maher argued that the US Marine Corps presence in Okinawa helps ensure security in the East Asia, according to Shii.
Touching on a 2006 bilateral accord to relocate the Futemma base to a less densely-populated area within Okinawa Prefecture, Maher said the deal will significantly lessen the burdens on the people of Okinawa, Shii added.
Shii is visiting the United States on the first-ever trip to the country by a JCP head.
Hatoyama visited Okinawa on Tuesday and told local leaders that it is not feasible to relocate all the functions of the Futemma base outside of the prefecture, drawing sharp criticism from local residents.
The Japanese government led by Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan is seeking to modify the 2006 deal by a Liberal Democratic Party government and the United States, while transferring some drills from the base to an island in nearby Kagoshima Prefecture.
Although the premier's self-imposed deadline of May 31 for settling the Futemma issue is nearing, it remains uncertain how Japan and the United States will settle the touchy issue. Okinawa Prefecture hosts the bulk of US military bases in Japan.