Delay Is Likely for a New U.S. Air Base on Okinawa, Japanese Official Says






TOKYO — Japan and the United States will probably agree to delay the relocation of an American air base on Okinawa, Japan’s defense minister said, a decision that could encourage calls to rethink the stalled relocation plan.

The inability to find a new home for the base, the United States Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, has been a longstanding irritant in the United States relationship with Japan, the most important American ally in Asia. The defense minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, said the two nations remained committed to the current plan, signed last year, to move the busy helicopter base to a less populated part of the island of Okinawa.

However, he said that construction of a replacement would most likely be delayed beyond the target date of 2014 because of entrenched resistance to the plan on Okinawa. Mr. Kitazawa said the two nations would seek a “shared understanding” on the delay during his visit to Washington this week, when he will meet with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

“The fact of the matter is that it will be hard to resolve this by 2014,” Mr. Kitazawa said in an interview with The New York Times before his arrival in the United States on Sunday. “There is no point in dragging out something that cannot be done just because we agreed to do it before. What we are saying is let’s deal with this realistically.”...



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