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Japan offers $3 billion to move Okinawa Marines

Date Posted: 2006-04-15

Top Japanese cabinet ministers are calling for compromise by the United States in exchange for Japan’s financial support for moving Marines off Okinawa.

Foreign Minister Taro Aso, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, Defense Minister Fukushiro Nukaga and Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki agreed to pick up more than $3 billion in relocation costs, but say the US must make some concessions too. A compromise at upcoming bilateral sub-cabinet level meetings this week would permit Japan to extend more than $3 billion in loans that were offered earlier.

The four key Japanese leaders say their country could ante up grants instead of loans from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. The meetings get under way today in Tokyo.

The U.S. and Tokyo are currently deadlocked in talks to finalize an agreement struck last October. The final agreement was supposed to have been signed before the end of March. A compromise could allow talks on relocation costs, estimated at $10 billion, to move forward. The U.S. is asking Tokyo to pay 75% of the costs for moving 8,000 Marines to Guam.

More than half the Japanese population opposes Japan paying for the move, according to a new survey. Fifty-three percent of those polled don’t think Japan should have to pick up the tab, while 38% think a payout is inevitable.

Foreign Minister Aso said Japan should consider compromise, but added the U.S. team should also try to meet Japan “half way”. Defense Minister Nukaga warned that time is short, and the two countries cannot continue to procrastinate.

An agreement late last week on moving a controversial Marine airfield on Okinawa could help move the talks forward. Nago City has agreed to accept a plan to relocate Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to the northern location on the island.

The two governments have encountered opposition to relocation and realignment plans. Mainland Japan areas that will gain more American military presence are strongly opposed, and Okinawa Prefecture continues to press for more troops off its island. The redeployment and realignment pact would involve 50,000 troops now based in Japan.

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