NEW YORK, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Japan and the United States agreed to speed up work on plans to relocate a U.S. Marine base within the Okinawa Prefecture, the two sides said.
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meeting in New York, discussed relocation of the Futenma U.S. Marine air station to a less populated area on the same Okinawa Prefecture where noise won't be as much of an issue as it is now.
Gemba told reporters he had asked Clinton to make further efforts to ease the burdens on the people of Okinawa as prospects for the relocation plan remain tough, Kyodo News reported.
A senior U.S. State Department official said Clinton "underscored that we hope we can move forward quickly with implementing the agreement that we came to with the previous government in 2+2 format earlier this summer," said a report on the State Department Web site.
In the agreement reached in June at a meeting of defense and foreign ministers of the two countries, it was agreed to relocate the air station at the earliest possible date after 2014. The issue has been a difficult one between the United States and Japan, its closest Asian ally, although the importance of the air station on Okinawa has grown in view of China's growing military might.
The two sides want to relocate the air station from Ginowan to the less densely populated coastal area of Nago in the island prefecture but Okinawa residents want the facility relocated out of their prefecture.
Gemba is visiting New York to attend a series of U.N. and bilateral meetings. His talks with Clinton came ahead of a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and U.S. President Barack Obama scheduled for Wednesday in New York.