WASHINGTON, March 29 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met Monday with visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada to discuss the relocation of Futenma military base on the Okinawa island. The Pentagon said the United States respects Japan's opinion, and is considering its proposition.
Gates and Okada met in the Pentagon. Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said the United States respects "Japan's request to explore alternatives," on the Futenma base issue.
The Futenma base issue has caused considerable controversy in recent months between the allies, with the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) looking at other options other than a 2006 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between Washington and the government of former governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Under that agreement, the U.S. Futenma air facility was to be moved to a coastal area in Okinawa and away from its current urban location. Locals and some inside Japan's governing coalition oppose the plan, saying they want the base moved out of the prefecture.
Whitman on Monday said Washington is carefully considering Japan's "current thinking with regards to the Futenma issue," and discussions will be conducted "through diplomatic channels."
Okada is scheduled to meet with National Security Adviser James Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.