U.S., Japan settle Okinawa base dispute
Land to be returned, but
December 2, 1996
troop count stays the same
Web posted at: 10:05 a.m. EST (1445 GMT)
In this story:
TOKYO (CNN) -- After a year of healing, soul-searching and
negotiating, the United States and Japan on Monday settled a
bitter dispute over U.S. bases on Okinawa, agreeing that the
United States would return some of the land it uses and
announcing plans for a multi-billion-dollar floating helicopter base
off the island.
However, the number of U.S. troops on Okinawa, 650 miles
southeast of Tokyo, would remain unchanged at 28,000.
The agreement was spurred by the September 1995 rape of a
12-year-old girl by three U.S. servicemen, an incident that
ignited simmering tensions among Okinawans unhappy with the
Land to be returned
The pact was signed by U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry,
Japanese Foreign Minister Yokuhiko Ikeda, Defense Minister
Fumio Kyuma and U.S. ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale.
By the year 2008, the U.S. military will return 12,000 acres
-- about one-fifth of the land it uses on Okinawa -- and
close part or all of 11 facilities. It will also reduce
The agreement "reduces the burden on the Okinawan people"
while preserving "vital security," in the region, said Perry,
who flew to Tokyo from the Middle East late Sunday to sign
the accord. (153K/14 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Base to be closed
The two countries agreed to close the noisy Futenma Marine
Corps Air Station -- home to 100 aircraft and 4,000 troops
-- within seven years and made plans to build a 1,500-yard
(meter)-long floating helicopter base somewhere off the
island's east coast.
The facility, five times longer than an aircraft carrier,
would be connected to shore by a short causeway. The two
countries will study the plan for a year before making final
decisions on the method of construction and exact location.
'Cost will be enormous'
Japan will foot the estimated $2 billion bill for the base.
"The cost will be enormous," said Prime Minister Ryutaro
Hashimoto. "The entire (Japanese) population will have to
share the burden."
"A lot of work is yet to be done," Mondale acknowledged. But,
he added, "more serious work has occurred in the last year
than in the last 25 years put together." (204K/19 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Asked how an agreement which removes no U.S. troops could
soften Okinawa's bitterness over the rape and the continuing
military presence, Ikeda said it would require a public
To soften the burden, the Japanese government has promised to
revitalize Okinawa with an extensive economic aid package.
Although the peace offerings have helped calm the anger on
the island, they haven't silenced the demands.
Masahide Ota, Okinawa's outspoken governor, has said he is
still determined to remove all bases and troops by the year
China shouldn't fear
The United States has 47,000 troops stationed throughout
Japan and has said that it will continue to maintain a total
of 100,000 in the entire Asia-Pacific region.
China has voiced strong concerns over the planned
enhancement of U.S.-Japanese military ties, but Perry said
those fears are unfounded.
"What this alliance has done has provided peace and security
and stability in this entire region," he said. "This, in
turn, has provided the conditions which allowed the
remarkable economic growth in the entire region.
"It has benefited not just the United States and Japan; it
has benefited all of the nations of this region, including
Correspondent May Lee and Reuters contributed to this report.
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