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Okinawa Air Base Likely to Arise in US-Japan Discussions


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to discuss the conflict over a U.S. military base on Okinawa when she meets with the Japanese foreign minister Tuesday.

Clinton and her counterpart, Katsuya Okada, are to meet Tuesday in the U.S. Pacific island state of Hawaii. Clinton will travel on to Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea later in the week.

On Monday, Clinton said she expects to focus the talks on the importance of the 50-year relationship between the U.S. and Japan, one of Washington's most important allies in the region.

But the fate of the Futenma U.S. air base on Okinawa has dominated relations lately. Japan's new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has questioned a 2006 agreement to move the base from a crowded urban area to a less-populated part of the island. Some political factions in Japan have raised the possibility of moving it off Okinawa altogether.

The White House wants to continue with the original plan.

While in Hawaii, Clinton also is scheduled to deliver a speech on U.S. security strategy in Asia.

Later this week, Clinton will continue on to Papua New Guinea. There, the State Department says she will meet with government officials as well as civil society leaders to discuss environmental protection and women's empowerment.

She will hold talks with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and other officials in Auckland. She also will meet with U.S. and New Zealand veterans at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

In Australia, Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will meet their Australian counterparts in annual consultations on global and regional security challenges.

Clinton is scheduled to return to the U.S. January 19.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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