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. Japan aims for deal on US troop relocation this month
TOKYO (AFP) Oct 14, 2005
Japan hopes to reach an agreement with the United States on the relocation of a US air base on the southern island of Okinawa by the end of October, its defense chief said Friday.

The relocation of the Futenma marine base on the southern island of Okinawa is the subject of long-running talks between Washington and Tokyo over the realignment of American troops in Japan.

Yoshinori Ohno, the head of Japan's Defense Agency, said the two sides needed to find a solution in time for an interim report due to be issued by the end of October.

"We have to discuss problems remaining for each of a few plans we are currently examining (on relocating the Futenma air base)," he told reporters.

Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura also said the two sides were aiming for a deal by the end of this month, in an interview with Britain's Financial Times.

On Thursday, Richard Lawless, US deputy under-secretary of defence, met Japanese defence and foreign ministry officials in Tokyo for the latest talks on relocating the base.

With the two sides having failed to reach an agreement, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld is skipping Japan during a trip through Asia next week.

Japan and the United States agreed in 1996 that the Futenma Air Base has to go but they are unable to agree on where to re-position it.

Okinawa, which accounts for less than one percent of Japan's land mass, remains the base for 65 percent of some 40,000 US troops in the country, and is next to the potential conflict area of the Taiwan Strait.

Okinawa sees frequent protests against the US troops, who are stationed in officially pacifist Japan by treaty, blaming them for noise and crime.

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