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Obama: US military presence serves Japan

Press TV [1]
Tuesday, Nov 10th, 2009

US President Barack Obama, who is due to travel to Japan this week, says the presence of US military bases in the country is in the interest of the nation.

Obama said he thinks the new center-left government in Japan will continue with a 2006 military deal with the US after reviewing the agreement.

“I’m confident that once the review is completed they will conclude that the alliance that we have … serves the interests of Japan and that they will continue,” Obama said Tuesday.

Under the 2006 accord, the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Base would be closed, but its air operations moved to an alternative site to be built on the southern island of Okinawa by 2014 in the coastal Camp Schwab area.

The US leader, however, accepted that the new government wanted to review aspects of their security alliance.

“I think that it is perfectly appropriate for the new government to want to reexamine how to move forward in a new environment,” Obama said in an interview with broadcaster NHK.

Tokyo and Washington have been at loggerheads with each other over the presence of US military forces in the country after the new Japanese government took power in September.

Japan’s new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama who has pledged a less subservient relationship with the US says his government may want the base moved off the island or even out of the country.

Washington has about 47,000 troops based in Japan, more than half of them on Okinawa. Local residents have been angered by crimes committed by US service personnel as well as the risk of accidents.

In 1995, rape of a schoolgirl by three US servicemen infuriated residents of Okinawa. Demands to close the base on safety grounds grew when a US helicopter crashed in the grounds of a local university in 2004.

Last Sunday, some 21,000 Okinawan residents protested against the presence of the US military base.

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