Japan's new Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Tuesday affirmed that he would “resolve” the status of a controversial U.S. air base “in accordance with the agreement” that Tokyo and Washington announced on May 28.
In the first news conference in his new role, Mr. Kan said in Tokyo that he would “honour” Japan's “commitment” to retain the base in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa. For this, his government would “engage the people of Okinawa, the government of Okinawa.”
The move acquires unusual political and diplomatic importance, because Mr. Kan has succeeded Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned as Japanese Prime Minister amid popular protest over the May 28 accord.
Mr. Kan emphasised that “it is incumbent on us to implement the agreement” and pledged to “reduce the burden on the people of Okinawa”.
A top Japanese official, briefing The Hindu on the Prime Minister's remarks, said Mr. Kan announced a mechanism for achieving these objectives. A committee was being formed, consisting of the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Foreign and Defence Ministers, and the Minister in charge of Okinawa.
Mr. Kan called himself “a grass-roots politician” and described his team of Ministers as “a cavalry Cabinet” which would strive to be valiant and decisive.
Outgoing Foreign and Defence Ministers, Katsuya Okada and Toshimi Kitazawa respectively, were retained by Mr. Kan with their previous portfolios intact.