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Japan's PM in Okinawa to Discuss US Military Base

U.S military airplanes and helicopters sit on the airstrip at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station surrounded by houses in Ginowan, Okinawa, Japan. (FILE)

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has visited the southern island of Okinawa amid tensions with residents about the relocation of a U.S. military base.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside a government building on the island as Mr. Kan held talks Friday with Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima.

The prime minister is trying to persuade the island to accept the relocation of the U.S. base to a coastal area, although Okinawans want it moved entirely.

Mr. Kan told the governor relocating the Futenma base to a coastal area may not be the best option, but is still a better option of maintaining it in the crowded residential area where it now exists.

The prime minister also apologized to Nakaima that his Democratic Party of Japan could not deliver on its pledge to move the base off of Okinawa entirely.

In May, the United States and Japan signed an agreement to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps air station on Okinawa.

A month later, Mr. Kan replaced former prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, who had lost voter support after breaking a campaign promise to remove the U.S. base from the island entirely. Mr. Hatoyama resigned from his post.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.