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
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
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