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Change of plans on Okinawa base move

Feb. 5, 2012 at 2:12 PM

TOKYO, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The United States and Japan are talking about moving U.S. Marines from Okinawa before relocating an air base on the island, sources told The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The newspaper said Sunday the idea was proposed as representatives of the two countries prepared to begin formal negotiations on the transfer in Washington this week.

The 2006 agreement on realignment of U.S. forces in Japan specified the transfer of 8,000 Marines to Guam and the relocation of the Futenma Air Station would be discussed together. But planned defense spending cuts prompted Washington to propose separating the two issues, Japanese government sources said.

"We have adopted a flexible stance in negotiations with the United States on ways to move forward on both the relocation of Futenma Air Station and the transfer of Marines to ease the burden on Okinawa prefecture at an early date while maintaining a deterrence," Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba told reporters Friday.

The newspaper said moving the air station to another part of Okinawa has run into staunch opposition from local residents.

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