Some land will be returned to Japan near Okinawa air base to ease stress on area, while Futenma air base could be returned to Japan in 2022.
Japan and the US have agreed to a plan to return some land near the Okinawa Kadena Air Force base to Japan, and have also agreed to a deal wherein the Futenma Air Force base could be returned to Japan as early as 2022.
The huge Okinawa air force base hosts about three-quarters of US military presence in Japan, says Reuters, and residents are opposed to moving the Futenma base to a less populated area of the island, arguing that their small land area is disproportionately affected.
Some facilities and areas will be returned immediately, says the BBC, and some soldiers will be moved. Approximately 1,000 hectares of land are set to be returned at this time.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos signed off on the plans April 5, says the Japan Times, and will specify at a later date exactly when Futenma will be moved.
“With the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region getting tougher, I’m glad that we were able to show that the bond of trust in the Japan-U.S. alliance is not wavering at all,” said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the deal to Reuters.
The new plans may be part of a peace offering to Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, who has long opposed the base and has blocked government quests to reclaim land for the planned Nago base.
Okinawans have complained that the bases are too large, and that the US soldiers present there are often involved in crime, including a string of rapes.