U.S., Japan cut off Okinawa realignment talks
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Failing to agree on how to fund the move of some 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam and mainland Japan, U.S. and Japanese officials ended talks in Washington on Wednesday, one day earlier than scheduled.
A Japan Defense Agency spokesman said Thursday the two sides would resume discussions next week in Tokyo.
“The talk adjourned this morning — Japan time — and the next meeting is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Tokyo with the same members,” the spokesman said.
“There remains a gap between two parties over the move of Marines to Guam and both sides agreed that it would not be possible to fill the gap through this round,” he said, explaining why this week’s meeting was cut short. “After meeting two days, they both agreed that it was the best they could do at this time and decided to have a talk another day in Tokyo.”
The two nations had hoped to agree by the end of March on details for implementing a broad plan to realign U.S. forces in Japan announced last October. But opposition by Japanese communities affected by the plan and a U.S. request for Japan to cover most of the cost for moving 8,000 Marines off Okinawa have become sticking points.
The U.S. side has proposed that Japan pay 75 percent of the $10 billion moving cost. Japan has offered to cover about $3 billion through loans to be repaid by the United States.
On Okinawa, local officials have bridled at accepting a plan to build an airstrip on Camp Schwab and reclaimed land in Oura Bay to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The Camp Schwab airstrip is an alternative to an offshore project that was stalled for 10 years.
In the October agreement, Japanese officials were to win local support for the airport plan prior to agreeing on details of the realignment.
But Okinawa officials have objected to flight paths that pass over neighboring villages.
“Both countries will continue negotiations for the cost of moving Marines from Okinawa to Guam,” Tomohiko Taniguchi, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, said on Thursday.
“As for relocation of [MCAS] Futenma, both countries will continue to negotiate to draw a plan that will be acceptable for all three parties — Japan, the United States and the local communities. Ultimately, however, this involves the security of a country, an issue for which the government of Japan should be responsible.”