WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet her Japanese counterpart in Hawaii next week amid a row over a U.S. airbase that has strained relations between the two allies, officials said on Thursday.
The State Department said Clinton would meet Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada on January 12 in Hawaii, where she is stopping on the way to visit Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the disagreement over relocating the Marine’s Futenma airbase in Okinawa would likely be discussed.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the issue of Futenma comes up,” Crowley said, adding that the talks would also likely touch on other security issues including the U.S.-led war against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
The Obama administration wants to move ahead with a plan agreed in 2006 to shift the Futenma base to a less crowded part of Okinawa, but many local residents say it should be moved off the island entirely, a view Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama backed during his election campaign.
Hatoyama has pledged to decide by May how to proceed on the base issue, which is increasingly seen as an example of new strains in the U.S.-Japan relationship under his government’s leadership.
Residents of Okinawa, 1,000 miles south of Tokyo and reluctant host to about half the 47,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan, have long resented what they see as an unfair burden in maintaining the U.S.-Japan security alliance.
The plan to move Futenma is part of a broader realignment of U.S. troops in Japan against a background of China’s rising role and an unpredictable North Korea.
Marine Corps Commandant General James Conway said in December that the dispute could complicate the plan to move Marines to Guam by 2014.
Reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Anthony Boadle