• The Associated Press

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The central government and the U.S. military have jointly paid compensation for lung ailments suffered by two Japanese former workers exposed to asbestos at the U.S. Navy’s Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture, a civic group said Thursday.

The Defense Facilities Administration Agency and the U.S. Navy paid a combined 22 million yen to a relative of a worker who died two years ago at the age of 88 and 13 million yen to a 70-year-old man suffering from serious lung problems as a result of asbestos exposure at the base, said Takashige Ishida, director of the Kanagawa Labor Hazard and Occupational Illness Center, which is representing the victims.

Their names were not disclosed by the group, which helps people with occupational diseases and work-related injuries. The two men inhaled dust from asbestos insulation while working on U.S. warships at the base starting in the 1950s and developed pneumoconiosis, a lung disease that causes breathing difficulties and fatigue.

In the late 1990s, the government labor standards office certified that the two had been sickened by long exposure to asbestos — 20 years in the case of the man who died and 37 years for the 70-year-old.

More than 30 former workers at the Yokosuka base have sued the central government and the U.S. Navy in asbestos-related cases, and several have reached out-of-court settlements. The central government pays the salaries of Japanese workers at U.S. bases in Japan under a bilateral security pact.

The base completed the removal of asbestos from all of its ships more than a decade ago, navy officials said.

USS Kitty Hawk, JFK won’t retire

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to require the Defense Department to preserve the two remaining conventionally powered aircraft carriers — the USS Kitty Hawk and USS John F. Kennedy — as candidates for deployment to Japan unless Tokyo agrees to host a nuclear-powered flattop.

The requirement was included in an amendment the Senate passed in a 58-38 vote to attach to the fiscal 2005 supplementary spending bill for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate is expected to vote on the extra appropriations bill Thursday.

With the Japan-deployed Kitty Hawk scheduled to be retired in 2008, what to replace it with has become a thorny issue due to strong opposition in Japan to hosting nuclear-powered vessels.

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