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 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 4:23 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
He should be toddling around a playground. Instead, his tiny hands grip an AK-47.
updated 12:52 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
CNN's Will Ripley travels to North Korea, visiting an international wrestling festival and a slide-filled water park.
updated 5:20 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
updated 8:30 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
In a raid on a luxury apartment complex, agents caught up with a French-Algerian man they accuse of bringing back terror to Europe.
updated 8:02 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about trying to get a hostage home alive.
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
The accidental killing of a gun instructor raises an "absurd question," writes Mel Robbins.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT