TOKYO, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Japan postponed its decision on the relocation of the U.S. Marine air base on Okinawa until next year although Washington had argued against any such delay.
Defending his government's decision, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyma said there was no other way to deal with the Marine Corps air station at Futenma because of the realities in Okinawa, Kyodo News reported Wednesday.
U.S. Marine Corps commandant Gen. James Conway called the Japanese decision "unfortunate" as it did not set any deadline, Kyodo said in a report from Washington.
The Marine station has become an issue since the Hatoyama government came to power in September.
Under a 2006 deal, reached after years of tough negotiations, the United States agreed to move the station from its current location to a less populated part of Okinawa. But the Hatoyama government had campaigned on moving it out of Okinawa or even out of Japan.
The United States has firmly said there can be no change in the agreement, which also calls for moving about 8,000 Marines to Guam.
General Conway was quoted as saying the Japanese decision could delay the implementation of the 2006 bilateral agreement set to be completed by 2014, Kyodo reported.
Hatoyama was quoted as saying his government "has its own policy'' and it will "seek understanding (from Washington) in the course of negotiations.''
On Tuesday, Hatoyama said he will seek a new relocation site for the air station other than what was agreed to in the 2006 deal but said he would need ''several months'' to do that, the report said.