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WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Two veteran U.S. congressmen have called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Japan amid the ballooning U.S. budget deficit.

“It’s becoming a financial issue,” Ron Paul, an isolationist Republican House of Representatives member from Texas, said in a recent interview, indicating that maintaining U.S. forces in Japan has become a financial burden for Washington.

Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Ohio, said in a separate interview: “The United States truly cannot afford to construct the new base in Okinawa. Nor can it afford to have a military presence across the globe.”

Kucinich and Paul have both sought the presidency. Paul, an advocate of isolationism, is supported by some conservatives, while Kucinich is popular as one of the most liberal figures among the Democrats.

Last week, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff unveiled their latest National Military Strategy report pledging a strong U.S. military presence in Northeast Asia for decades.

Some members of Congress say it is important for the United States to keep forces in Japan as China’s military presence is growing in the region while North Korea continues to act provocatively.

The two lawmakers, however, are opposed to continued stationing of U.S. forces in Japan.

“China’s interested in making money, not war,” Kucinich said.

Paul argued Tokyo should end its dependence on U.S. forces for its defense, saying, “It’s time for Japan to assume all of their own responsibilities.”

He also dismissed the view that U.S. forces in Japan serve as deterrence, saying this is an “excuse” to maintain a U.S. military presence in the region.

“For a long time I was probably the only one” who proposed such a view, he said. “Now we’re getting more support.”

Kucinich is also critical of the current U.S. military strategy. “We don’t have the money to be the policemen of the world. And we should stop pretending that we do,” he said.

Describing the U.S. bases in Japan as “really part of a bygone era,” Kucinich urged the two countries to move away from a relationship prioritizing military cooperation.

“We have a strong friendship with Japan. That friendship is not dependent on a military presence,” he said.

Both Paul and Kucinich said they can understand the feeling of people in Okinawa, where a host of U.S. bases are located. Local opposition remains strong against a plan to relocate a U.S. base within the prefecture.

“What if China wanted a base in New York City? We’d be furious,” Paul said.

The problem in Okinawa is not U.S. Marines but “the people in Washington that send them there,” Kucinich said. “This is an issue that Congress must take up with the White House so that we can make sure that the concerns of the residents of Okinawa are taken into consideration.”

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