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Obama Agrees to Reassess U.S. Base on Okinawa

Amid continuing protests by Japanese civilians on Okinawa, President Obama has announced he will create a “high-level working group” to discuss the future of a U.S. Marine Corps air base on the island, a move that appears to be aimed at mending relations with Japan.

The New York Times:

President Obama, seeking to mend fences with Japan, America’s most important Asian ally, announced Friday that he would establish a high-level working group on the contentious issue of the continuing presence of a Marine base on Okinawa.

The decision, announced at a news conference with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama just hours after he touched down in Tokyo to begin his first presidential trip to Asia, appears to represent a concession by the Obama administration to at least consider Japan’s concerns about the base, which is unpopular on Okinawa and which the new Japanese government had promised to try to move off the island.

Less than a month ago, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates seemed to shut the door on renegotiating a deal reached in 2006 to relocate the United States Marine air station in Futenma to a less populated part of Okinawa.

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