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Japan, US to Put off Agreement on Realignment Plan
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Japan and the United States are unlikely to reach an agreement on the US military realignment in Japan by the end of this month due to cost disputes, local media reported Monday.

The Japanese government has pushed out the end-of-March deadline to early April, Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported Monday, quoting unnamed sources.

Talks between the two countries failed to make any break through as Tokyo is unwilling to shoulder 75 percent of the US-projected cost of relocating 7,000 US Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

Former Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Vice President Taku Yamasaki said on Sunday in a TV program that Japan would be able to shoulder up to 50 percent of the US$10 billion cost at best. He said it was the consensus view within the ruling party.

American troops have been stationed in Japan since the end of World War II in 1945. Currently, there are about 50,000 US troops located there.

Tokyo and Washington preliminarily approved an overall realignment package on the US military presence in Japan in October 2005 and the two sides were expected to finalize the plans by the end of March.

The plans have met strong oppositions from local residents of related areas. People have long complained about crime, noise and crowding associated with the US military presence.

On Sunday, Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga and Mayor of Nago Yoshikazu Shimabukuro failed to reach an agreement on the relocation of the US Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa prefecture, to a coastal area near the US marines' Camp Schwab in Nago.

Officials from Japanese foreign ministry and defense agency are expected to hold another round of working-level talks with their American counterparts later this week over the realignment plan, Asahi said.

(Xinhua News Agency March 27, 2006)

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