U.S., Japan agree to delay Marine air base relocation

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U.S., Japan agree to delay Marine air base relocation

The United States and Japan agreed on Tuesday to drop the 2014 deadline for relocating a controversial U.S. Marine air base on Japan's southern island of Okinawa.

(L to R) Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hold a joint news conference after a U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (SCC) meeting at the State Department in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, June 21, 2011.(Xinhua/Zhang Jun)

The agreement was reached at the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting, informally known as the 2+2 Ministerial, attended by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates along with Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

The two sides said that the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma would be completed at the "earliest possible date" after 2014, according to a joint statement issued after the meeting.

"The Ministers emphasized the increasing importance of the presence of the U.S. forces in Japan, including in Okinawa, to maintain deterrence and strengthen Alliance capabilities in view of the current evolving regional security environment," the statement said.

Under an agreement signed in 2006, the two sides planned to close the Futenma air base and build a new base on Okinawa, and to redeploy some 8,000 U.S. Marines for the U.S. territory of Guam by 2014. But local Japanese activists are opposed to the plan to build a new U.S. base on Okinawa, where half of the 47,000 U.S. troops based in Japan are stationed.

Tuesday's meeting is the first of its kind held by the two allies since May of 2007, and the first since Japan was struck by a strong earthquake in March that caused a devastating tsunami and nuclear power plant radiation scare.

The purpose of the 2+2 meeting "is to underscore the significance of the alliance in the years ahead, to advance the U. S.-Japan alliance and set its future agenda," U.S. State Department officials told a briefing on Monday.

The talks were expected to focus on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Afghanistan, missile defense technology transfer, and the realignment of U.S. forces, the officials added.

VietNamNet/Xinhuanet

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