• Kyodo

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The Defense Ministry says it will cost ¥70 billion to build housing in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, for U.S. military personnel moving in from Kanagawa Prefecture under the 2006 realignment accord, a local assembly member said Sunday.

About 1,060 new houses will be built for the approximately 4,000 servicemen and their families who will have moved into Iwakuni by 2014, when 59 jet fighters transfer from the U.S. Navy’s Atsugi base in Kanagawa under the bilateral plan, according to what the ministry has explained to local leaders.

The ministry is hoping to win local consent to buy land for the housing in the fiscal year through March, before hammering out the details with the U.S. side, the member of the Yamaguchi Prefectural Assembly said.

Some 270 of the 1,060 houses would be built on land earmarked for a public project, which was later aborted, to build residential area on land that as freed up after soil was taken from a mountain to move Iwakuni’s airstrip offshore. The aborted public housing project left the prefectural and city governments with some ¥24 billion in debt.

Given the government’s troubles with the realignment issue, which forced former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to resign in June, and citizen opposition to hosting U.S. military personnel on land for residential housing, Yamaguchi Gov. Sekinari Nii is no longer willing to sell the land to the central government and is more cautious on the issue.

As for a related plan to move U.S. Marines Corps Air Station Futenma, new Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said the government will “need to take time” trying to win over the residents in Okinawa Prefecture.

“We are not basing our ideas on promoting things in time for President Obama’s Japan visit,” Maehara said on NHK.

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