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Japan, US split on military base relocation cost

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TOKYO, Mar 24 (Reuters) Talks aimed at wrapping up a plan to reorganise the US military in Japan ended without a deal today and negotiators will meet in Washington next week to try to close the gaps by an end-of-March deadline, a US source said.

Japan's foreign minister said the two sides were divided over how much Tokyo should pay towards moving 8,000 US Marines to Guam from the island of Okinawa, a key part of a broader plan to reorganise the more than 50,000 US military personnel in Japan.

''These are negotiations ... so it's natural that there is quite a gap,'' Foreign Minister Taro Aso told reporters.

Washington has proposed that Tokyo pay 75 per cent of the estimated 10 billion dollar it will cost to move the Marines to Guam, while Japan wants to reduce the bill and provide at least some of the funds in the form of loans because of its huge public debt.

Today, Japan presented an offer to provide 2.5 billion dollar in loans to pay for the construction of housing for the families of US military personnel, Kyodo news agency said.

Squabbling over the funding and opposition from Japanese communities worried about noise, crime and accidents associated with the US bases have delayed finalising details of the deal, which was agreed last October.

The March deadline was self-imposed but an extended delay could frustrate Washington, which is trying to transform its military globally into a more flexible force.

Talks earlier this week between Japanese defence officials and the mayor of Nago City on Okinawa failed to patch up domestic differences over the proposed relocation of the US Marines' Futenma air base from a crowded part of the island to an area straddling another base and the Nago coast.

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