US asks for additional 96 bil. yen to relocate marines from Okinawa

WASHINGTON - The United Sates has asked for an increase in Japan's financial contribution to the transfer of US marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture to Guam, requesting about 320 billion yen(S$4,945,247,465) instead of the about 224 billion yen the sides agreed on in 2006, according to sources close to the bilateral talks.

The US request was made during negotiations, which began in earnest last month, on reviewing the 2006 Japan-US agreement on the realignment of US forces in Japan. The government has turned down the request, but the negotiations are expected to run into difficulties over the issue, according to the sources.

Regarding the 2006 agreement, both sides estimated the costs of developing facilities and infrastructure needed to transfer the marines from Okinawa Prefecture to Guam at about 821.6 billion yen. Of that amount, the two countries agreed that Japan will give the United States up to US2.8 billion dollars in direct cash contributions for constructing the headquarters building, barracks and facilities related to the marines' daily living, and provide about 263.2 billion yen in loans and government investment for developing residences for families and other infrastructure.

However, during last month's negotiations on reviewing the 2006 agreement, Washington asked Tokyo to decrease Japan's share in loans and investment and instead requested about 96 billion yen more in direct cash contributions, according to the sources.

The US government is believed to have cited the increase of transfer costs caused by the delay in developing infrastructure in Guam as one of the reasons for the request.

Under the review, the two countries are discussing plans to relocate the marines to places other than Guam, and the money needed to build facilities in these other locations could be another reason for the request.

According to the sources, Japan has told the United States it cannot increase the amount, as the number of US marines to be transferred to Guam is expected to be less than the 2006 agreement specified.

Foreign and defense ministry officials of the two governments are scheduled to hold director general-level officials' meetings on Thursday and Friday, and deputy director general-level meetings on Monday and Tuesday.

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