U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates speaks during a joint news conference with Japan's Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo October 21, 2009.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
TOKYO, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged Japan to resolve the issue of the relocation of a base in Okinawa before the visit of President Barack Obama next month, local media reported Thursday.
U.S. bases were going to be moved within Okinawa, with a number of troops leaving the island for Guam, an operation in part to be paid for by Japan, under a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed by the then LDP-led government and the administration of President George W. Bush in 2006.
Since then, however, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has come to power on a campaign platform that included a pledge to reassess the SOFA agreement.
According to reports, Gates on Tuesday asked Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada to make sure the issue was resolved by the time Obama visits on Nov. 12 and 13.
Okada, however, has expressed the view that the agreement may be unfair to the people of Okinawa and should be scrutinized.
The SOFA agreement states that a number of troops will leave Japan and be stationed in Guam, while the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan will be moved to Nago, a less heavily populated town within Okinawa by 2014.
During talks with Japanese leaders, Gates said that the SOFA agreement "is the best alternative for everyone, and it is time to move on." His words are likely to go unheeded.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has said that he would like to wait until after the mayoral election in Nago, Okinawa, in January to decide exactly what to do about the issue, which is the first significant disagreement between Japan and the United States since the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost power in an August election.
An aerial view shows coral reef along the front of the U.S. Marine base Camp Schwab, off the tiny hamlet of Henoko in Nago on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, October 13, 2009. Japan said on Thursday it could not sign off on a planned reorganisation of U.S. troops in the country before President Barack Obama visits Tokyo next month, after the U.S. defense secretary bluntly called for the deal to be implemented. Picture taken October 13, 2009.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)