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Small Party Quits Japan's Govt. to Protest US Base Decision

A small Japanese party is leaving the country's ruling coalition, after the prime minister broke a campaign promise to move a U.S. Marine base off Okinawa island.

Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima said Sunday that her party is quitting the coalition because it does not want to violate the public's trust.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama fired her as consumer affairs minister Friday when she refused to approve a deal he reached with the United States that keeps the U.S. Marines on Okinawa.

Mr. Hatoyama campaigned last year on a pledge to move the Futenma base off the southern island, where residents complain about the U.S. military presence. Washington wanted to stick to a 2006 deal with a previous Tokyo government to relocate the base within the island.

Mr. Hatoyama agreed Friday to move the base to a less populated part of Okinawa after failing to meet a self-imposed end-of-May deadline to find an alternative site outside the island that all sides could accept.

Washington also agreed Friday to move 8,000 U.S. personnel and their families from Okinawa to the U.S.-held territory of Guam and to shift some training activities off the island.

Mr. Hatoyama had urged the Social Democratic party to stay in his coalition. Opposition lawmakers urged him to resign for breaking his promise on the base.

The prime minister's Democratic Party still enjoys a strong majority in the lower house of parliament, but the Social Democrats' departure is a setback as it prepares for upper house elections expected in July.

Mr. Hatoyama's Cabinet saw its approval rating slide to 19 percent in a Kyodo news agency poll published Sunday. Several factors have contributed to that decline, including Mr. Hatoyama's reversal on the U.S. base and a political funding scandal involving the ruling Democrats.

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