Skip to main content

U.S. Okinawa base will be allowed to move after 17-year deadlock

By Yoko Wakatsuki and Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 6:45 PM EST, Fri December 27, 2013
An aerial view of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, southern Japan. Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima approved landfill work on December 27 to relocate the controversial U.S. military base, breaking 17 years of stagnation on the base's transfer plan, the government of Okinawa said Friday. An aerial view of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, southern Japan. Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima approved landfill work on December 27 to relocate the controversial U.S. military base, breaking 17 years of stagnation on the base's transfer plan, the government of Okinawa said Friday.
HIDE CAPTION
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Pentagon praises the move as a "significant milestone"
  • Regional governor OKs a landfill proposal to permit construction of new military facilities
  • Plan would take Futenma air base away from a more populated area
  • Actions of U.S. service personnel have made base unpopular with residents

Tokyo (CNN) -- A Japanese governor has approved a measure to allow for the relocation of a controversial U.S. military base on Okinawa, breaking 17 years of stagnation on the base's transfer plan, the government of Okinawa said Friday.

The Okinawa prefecture's Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima on Friday approved a landfill proposal by the Japanese central government that will permit the construction of new military facilities in a sparsely populated area.

The Pentagon praised the move.

"This decision comes after many years of sustained effort between the United States and Japan, and it is the most significant milestone achieved in these realignment efforts so far," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a written statement, which the Pentagon initially attributed to Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, before correcting it.

"The realignment effort is absolutely critical to the United States' ongoing rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and our ability to maintain a geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable force posture in the region."

The Futenma air base, which is in a highly populated area, has been unpopular with the island's residents due to crimes committed by U.S. military personnel and allegations against them in the past.

Many residents were incensed by the rape of a 12-year-old Japanese girl in 1995 by three U.S. military personnel. It sparked some of the worst anti-U.S. military demonstrations seen in Japan in decades.

In 2002, a U.S. staff sergeant in the Air Force was convicted of raping a Japanese woman in a parking lot outside a popular nightclub in Okinawa. Intense media coverage of the case brought pressure on the Japanese government to review its agreement with the United States about handling criminal cases in Japan involving the U.S. military.

And allegations that a Marine raped a 14-year-old girl caused a furor in 2008. The girl later decided not to pursue charges.

In 2012, three U.S. servicemen were arrested in connection with rapes in Okinawa.

About half of all U.S. military personnel in Japan are stationed on the island.

The stagnation of the relocation issue has been a thorn in the side of relations between Tokyo and Washington since 1996 when the two governments agreed on the original plan to move the base.

Nakaima, the governor, also implied that escalating tension with neighboring countries pushed Okinawa to cooperate with the central government.

"Regardless the will of the Okinawa people, the tension is heightening on (the) international front. Okinawa needs to play a certain role for that," he said.

Okinawa administers the Senkaku Isands, a flash point in a territorial dispute between Japan and China. China claims them as territory and calls them the Diaoyu Islands.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:45 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
updated 4:58 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 7:46 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
updated 7:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
updated 5:26 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
updated 5:54 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
updated 7:53 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT