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US official cancels trip to Japan last minute

A senior US official, who was to discuss the relocation of a controversial Marine base with Japanese officials, has canceled his trip to Tokyo, an embassy spokesman said Tuesday.

world Updated: Mar 16, 2010 11:13 IST

A senior US official, who was to discuss the relocation of a controversial Marine base with Japanese officials, has canceled his trip to Tokyo, an embassy spokesman said Tuesday. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell was due to visit Tokyo for a single day later this week. He said last week that during his visit he would push for a quick resolution to the relocation of the U.S. military base on the southern island of Okinawa.

The sudden cancellation led to speculation in the Japanese media that it was due to a lack of progress on the base issue, which has strained ties between the U.S. and Japan. The allies had agreed to a plan to move the base in 2006, but that plan has been put on hold by a new government that took power last year.

National public broadcaster NHK quoted an unnamed diplomatic source as saying that the visit may have been canceled because Tokyo had yet to decide its position on the issue.

Campbell was also scheduled to visit Thailand on Wednesday but canceled "in light of events in Bangkok," the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok said in an e-mailed statement. Thousands of anti-government protesters were demonstrating near the seat of government for the fifth straight day.

In Tokyo, U.S. Embassy spokesman David Marks said Tuesday that Campbell's visit was canceled due to a change in itinerary, and that he wasn't aware of the reason for the change. A spokesman at the Japanese Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Tokyo has repeatedly postponed its decision on the base, despite pressure from the U.S. to hold to the original agreement.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has pledged a resolution by May. In 2006, Washington and Tokyo agreed to move the Futenma Marine air field on the southern island of Okinawa to a less crowded part of the island, and move 8,000 Marines to Guam.

Local residents in Okinawa have strongly protested the US military presence there. Under the US-Japan security pact, now in its 50th year, nearly 50,000 American troops are stationed in Japan.