NEW YORK The United States would like Japan to honor agreements to keep U.S. forces stationed on Okinawa but has no intention of dictating to the new Japanese government, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who took office last week after his Democratic Party of Japan trounced its long-dominant conservative rivals in an August election, has vowed to forge a more equal partnership with Washington and has set goals such as revising deals on U.S. forces.
Under an existing agreement, a U.S. Marine base would move from a town in Okinawa to a less populated part of the southern island. Hatoyama has said the base should be moved off Okinawa entirely, although he has not proposed an alternative site.
Speaking before high-level U.S.-Japan talks this week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell made clear the U.S. desire to see a continued U.S. presence on Okinawa.
"We have, and others in the U.S. government, have underscored that there are certain areas on Okinawa and elsewhere that we think a degree of continuity is critical -- the best way forward," Campbell told reporters.
"However, the truth is that the United States -- as an alliance partner and a strong friend of Japan -- at this early stage, we cannot be in a position to dictate," he added.
"We must make clear that we are committed to a process of dialogue and discussion," Campbell said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada on Monday and the two discussed the Okinawa issue briefly without taking up specific bases or issues in detail, a Japanese official said.
The official quoted Okada as telling Clinton that "the issue is still under discussion within our government and we will proceed while closely coordinating with the United States."
President Barack Obama is set to see Hatoyama on Wednesday when both attend the U.N. General Assembly.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)