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Japan, US Start Military Realignment Talks
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Japan and the United States started a two-day talk on Thursday over the US military realignment plans in Japan, which have already met strong local oppositions.

The senior working-level talks, between Japanese officials from foreign ministry, defense agency and US defense officials, are expected to be around the US request for Japan to shoulder 75 percent of the US$10 billion cost for relocating about 8,000 US Marines from Okinawa, most of whom will go to Guam, according to Kyodo News.

Tokyo and Washington are striving to finalize the overall realignment package by the end of this month. However, local residents from related areas of the realignment have voiced strong protests against US military presence.

Also on Thursday, representatives from the municipalities affected by the realignment plans visited the Defense Agency and Foreign Ministry to urge the central government to reconsider the plans.

Sekinari Nii, governor of the Yamaguchi prefecture, said in Tokyo that the realignment plan is "unacceptable," after his meeting with Foreign Minister Taro Aso.

On March 12, an overwhelming 89 percent of the resident voters in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi prefecture voted "no" to a plan which aims to relocate 57 carrier-based warplanes to the US Marine Corps' base in the city.

The plan is a part of an overall realignment package on the US military presence in Japan which was preliminarily approved by Tokyo and Washington last October.

Japanese residents in related areas have long complained about crime, noise and crowding associated with the US military presence. Recently, people in Okinawa and those in Kanoya, southern prefecture of Kagoshima have protested against the plans which may affect their life.

(Xinhua News Agency March 24, 2006)

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