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    Japan, US Fail Again to Conclude Forces Realignment Pact

    The latest set of talks between U.S. and Japanese officials on realigning the American forces in Japan made progress, but failed to reach an agreement. While a disagreement over relocation costs remains, the two allies say they were able to finalize plans to move a controversial Marine air station.

    A gap of billions of dollars separates Japan and the United States from agreeing on terms on realigning the American forces here. U.S. and Japanese officials say a dispute over how much of the cost Tokyo will cover is blocking an agreement.

    The Pentagon says it will cost $10 billion to move 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to the U.S. Pacific island of Guam. Washington wants Tokyo to pay three-quarters of that.

    Japan is offering $3 billion and says it will lend another $3 billion, which the United States will have to repay.

    Last year Washington and Tokyo set a goal of concluding a pact by the end of March - but talks to hammer out the details have progressed slowly.

    As he emerged from two days of talks on Friday, a frustrated U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Richard Lawless said the relocation price tag is not the only unresolved issue.

    "That's the major one but it's not the only one. We still have other things we have to do," he said.

    The two allies did announce they have agreed on another big issue. A U.S. Marine Corps air strip located in the middle of the Okinawan city of Ginowan will be moved to a more remote Marine base on the island.

    Both the central Japanese and U.S. governments have faced pressure for decades from local communities, especially on the island of Okinawa, to reduce the American military presence. Communities have complained about the noise, the danger from low-flying military aircraft and serious crimes occasionally committed by U.S. personnel.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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