TOKYO – TOKYO (AP) — The United States has asked Japan to help shoulder hundreds of millions of dollars in additional fees to transfer Marines from a controversial base on Okinawa island to Guam, Kyodo news agency reported.
The extra money — needed to help pay for electricity, water and sewage facilities at the new site — could add further uncertainty to the future of the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, which has strained the security alliance that Japan and the U.S. sealed 50 years ago.
Debate over a relocation plan for the base, which currently sits in the middle of a city in Okinawa, led to repeated mass protests and was a major factor in Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's resignation last month. Under the existing deal, 8,000 Marines and their dependents will move to the U.S. territory of Guam and some facilities will shift to a less populated part of the Japanese island.
Japan agreed in 2006 to pay more than $6 billion of the $10 billion the move was expected to cost.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Tokyo last month to help pick up the tab for the higher-than-expected infrastructure costs at the new base, Kyodo news said, citing unnamed diplomatic sources.
Kyodo said that would likely cost Japan an additional tens of billions of yen (hundreds of millions of dollars). The country's massive debt and struggling economy are a major issue in national elections set for this month, and any additional financial burden for the already sensitive Okinawa base issue would draw strong criticism at home.