Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked U.S. Sen. John McCain on Wednesday to ensure Washington allocates budgetary funds to help cover the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps personnel to Guam from Okinawa, as agreed upon by the two countries.

At a separate meeting in Tokyo, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and the senator agreed to move forward the overall plan to realign U.S. forces in Japan to ease the base-hosting burden on the prefecture, Japanese officials said.

The forward-looking stance taken by the veteran senator, the Republican candidate in the 2008 presidential race, could signal a change on the marine relocation issue, whose slow progress is blamed both on Senate reluctance over the potential costs and opposition in Japan to an accord to build a new marine base to replace one in a crowded residential area.