Skip to main content

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

By Yoko Wakatsuki and Ben Brumfield, CNN
December 27, 2013 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
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
July 12, 2014 -- Updated 0008 GMT (0808 HKT)
Tichleman 1
A makeup artist, writer and model who loves monkeys and struggles with demons.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Lionel Messi's ability is not in question -- but will the World Cup final allow him to emerge from another footballing legend's shadow?
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1029 GMT (1829 HKT)
Why are Iraqi politicians dragging their feet while ISIS militants fortify their foothold across the country?
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
An elephant, who was chained for 50 years, cries tears of joy after being freed in India. CNN's Sumnima Udas reports.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 0732 GMT (1532 HKT)
Beneath a dusty town in northeastern Pakistan, CNN explores a cold labyrinth of hidden tunnels that was once a safe haven for militants.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 2249 GMT (0649 HKT)
CNN's Ravi Agrawal asks whether Narendra Modi can harness the country's potential to finally deliver growth.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 0444 GMT (1244 HKT)
CNN's Ben Wedeman visits the Yazji family and finds out what it's like living life in the middle of conflict.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Israel has deployed its Iron Dome defense system to halt incoming rockets. Here's how it works.
Even those who aren't in the line of fire feel the effects of the chaos that has engulfed Iraq since extremists attacked.
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.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
People walk with their luggage at the Maiquetia international airport that serves Caracas on July 3, 2014. A survey by pollster Datanalisis revealed that 25% of the population surveyed (end of May) has at least one family member or friend who has emigrated from the country. AFP PHOTO/Leo RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Plane passengers are used to paying additional fees, but one airport in Venezuela is now charging for the ultimate hidden extra -- air.
ADVERTISEMENT