Japan and the United States failed to produce a final agreement on the U.S. military realignment in their latest round of talks that ended Friday in Tokyo.
The two nations still have not settled the issue of how much Japan will pay to relocate 8,000 U.S. Marines to Guam, Richard Lawless, the U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense for Asia and Pacific affairs, said at the end of the two-day meeting.
Japan offered at the start of talks Thursday to give the U.S. $3 billion, in addition to $3 billion in loans for the Guam relocation, government sources said.
Lawless said the two sides also agreed on the revised plan for the new U.S. military air field in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.
The undersecretary told reporters he was “very pleased with the progress of discussions” and more senior working-level meetings will be held next week in Tokyo and Washington.
The two countries are trying to draw up an implementation plan for their October agreement on realigning the U.S. military in Japan. However, the cost of moving the 8,000 U.S. Marines has become a major hurdle, keeping the two countries from wrapping up negotiations that have gone through several rounds and passed the self-imposed March 31 deadline.
“We reached agreement on the Futenma project,” Lawless said, referring to the new airfield planned for Nago’s Cape Henoko, where operations of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in central Ginowan, southern Okinawa, will move.
“We have accepted it as operationally workable and we are very pleased,” he said.
Prior to Friday’s working-level talks, Lawless and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer met with Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga for an hourlong meeting.
“We are in the final stretch and heading toward a resolution overall, but there is still distance between us on the Marines’ relocation cost,” Nukaga told a news conference in the morning after the discussion.
Lawless said the two nations are “looking for creative ways to resolve all of the remaining issues” and said the Marines relocation cost sharing dispute is “the major” obstacle left in the realignment negotiations.
The United States has been asking Japan to pay 75 percent, or $7.5 billion, of the estimated $10 billion relocation costs. Japan initially offered only loans of $3 billion, including $2.5 billion for housing.
The latest agreement on the Futenma relocation follows a deal struck April 7 by the Defense Agency with Nago Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro on a revised plan for the Nago airfield, which will feature two runways in a V-shaped formation on land at the U.S. Marines Camp Schwab and extending just off the coast in Henoko.
The plan Japan and the United States had originally agreed on in October had only one runway.
Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine has not accepted the two-runway plan.