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Gates Urges Japan To Honor Agreement On Reorganizing US Military Base

Visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has urged Japan to honor a 2006 agreement on reorganizing the US military presence in that country.

"It is time to move on," Gates told reporters after talks with his Japanese counterpart Toshimi Kitazawa. "This may not be the perfect alternative for anyone, but it is the best alternative for everyone," he added.

The agreement Tokyo and Washington signed in 2006 requires the controversial US Marine base on Okinawa island to relocate to a less heavily-populated region on its west to alleviate disturbances to the local residents.

Kitazawa said he had pointed out the political difficulties involved in the deal, but added that a decision as early as possible was necessary for a healthy alliance between the two countries.

Gates, who was the Defense Secretary in George Bush's administration, also held talks with Japan's new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Allaying fears that a change in regime will change Tokyo's policy towards Washington, Hatoyama reassured Gates that US-Japan security relations were still very important to the Japanese.

"Under the circumstances in which uncertainties remain in this North-East Asia region, I think it is imperative to maintain and develop our alliance even further," he added.

Japan's key security ally since the end of World War II, the U.S. currently has about 47,000 troops in that country, most of them on the military base in Okinawa.

Gates concluded his Japanese visit Wednesday, which was intended to lay the groundwork for President Barack Obama's two-day tour of the country beginning November 12.

From Tokyo, Gates arrived in South Korea on a two-day visit.

by RTT Staff Writer

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