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US, Japan vow to resolve Okinawa base issue

world Updated: Jan 13, 2010 07:22 IST

DPA
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The US and Japan pledged on Tuesday to resolve differences over relocating a US military base on Okinawa, offering assurances that the dispute will not undermine the countries' decades-old alliance.

Speaking after a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Honolulu, Hawaii, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Tokyo to reach a conclusion on the 2006 agreement by May.

"I am confident that we will resolve this matter in a way that reflects the very best of our alliance, the strength of that alliance for the next 50 years, and provides the security guarantees that the Japanese people are looking for," Clinton said.

The US and Japan inked a deal in 2006 that would move the Futenma Air Base to another spot on Okinawa, where the presence of US Marines is unpopular.

But the new Japanese government led by the Democratic Party of Japan has vowed to review the agreement, fulfilling a campaign pledge that helped the party end decades of rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party in Aug 30 elections.

The DPJ has raised the possibility of moving the base off of Okinawa, irking the Obama administration, which has insisted that Japan honour the 2006 deal.

Okinawans have long been annoyed by the presence of the US military and crimes committed by American servicemen. In 1995, a 12-year-old girl was gang-raped by three US soldiers, sparking fierce protests against the US bases.

Clinton met with Okada at the beginning of her trip 10-day trip to the Asia-Pacific region that includes stops in Australia, New Zealand and Papua, New Guinea.