Japan PM "sorry" to Okinawa over US base
Japan's premier Yoshihiko Noda offered a personal apology to Okinawa over his government's attitude to the moving of an unpopular US air base.
In his first trip to the tropical island chain as prime minister, Noda told governor Hirokazu Nakaima he intended to stick with a long-stalled plan to shift the air base, but was sorry for the way the issue had been handled.
"We mustn't fix the Futenma air station" at its current site, Noda told Nakaima, referring to a 2006 agreement for the base to be relocated from its crowded urban location to a sparsely populated coastal zone.
But a bowing Noda added: "I apologize to the governor and people of Okinawa" for the insincere attitude the governing Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has shown towards the issue.
"We have to see progress this year in developing Okinawa and reducing your burden" of hosting US troops, Noda said.
Many Okinawans want the base off the southern island altogether and say the US military presence there should be dramatically cut.
But Tokyo and Washington see the island chain as a vital bridgehead in the rapidly evolving Pacific theatre, where the growing military might of China regularly raises eyebrows.