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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A ruling Liberal Democratic Party panel decided Tuesday it will not accept any final agreement between the Japanese and U.S. governments on the Camp Schwab airstrip without first gaining local consent, according to a Kyodo News report.

Meanwhile, Nago Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro warned Japan’s government this week he remains determined to seek more changes to the plan to relocate Marine air operations to Camp Schwab.

“The party cannot accept any snap decision by the government in finalizing the agreement (with the United States) without approval from local communities,” said Taku Yamasaki, head of the Japanese government panel and a defense expert, according to Kyodo. He also is a close ally of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Yamasaki also has been critical of the Japanese government’s handling of the realignment issue. He urged acceptance of Nago’s demands.

Before traveling to Tokyo on Tuesday for more talks with Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga, Shimabukuro said he hasn’t changed his demand to move the new air station’s runway farther out to sea.

Nukaga said he hoped to have a “good, in-depth talk with Shimabukuro,” according to a spokesman for the self-defense agency.

Also on Tuesday, U.S. and Japanese officials were to meet again in Washington, D.C., with a focus on completing details of the realignment plan announced in October. Japan’s difficulty in gaining local communities’ support for the realignment blueprint delayed plans to complete the agreement in March.

Two sticking points have been the U.S. request that Japan pay 75 percent of the estimated $10 billion bill for moving approximately 17,000 Marines and their dependents to Guam and building the new air facility on Camp Schwab in Nago’s rural east coast.

In March, Tokyo officials suggested the airstrip’s layout could be shifted to avoid most of the villages in the area. Nago Deputy Mayor Bunshin Suematsu said no plan for a new airstrip would be acceptable as long as flight paths go over any local community. “Our stance on this will not change,” he said Monday.

U.S. officials have said moving troops from Okinawa without financial support from Japan would take decades and that Japan should shoulder more of the burden because it has demanded the U.S. military presence on Okinawa be cut, the Associated Press has reported.

The money is intended for what would be a major new Marine base, including headquarters for the III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Japan, bridling at the cost, instead has proposed providing loans to build family housing. Foreign Minister Taro Aso has suggested Japan then could pay a bit less than 50 percent of the tab.


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