The governor of Okinawa officially approved the long-awaited transfer of a US military base on Friday, a major step toward allowing the US to establish a new military base on Okinawa’s coast and relocate some troops to Guam.
An Okinawa official confirmed that Governor Hirokazu Nakaima had approved the Japanese Defense Ministry’s application to establish a new US military site on the coast to replace the Marine Corps base currently in Futenma, a busier part of Okinawa’s main island.
The United States affirmed plans to relocate the base again last year, but the move has faced opposition from Okinawa residents who feel the island hosts a disproportionate share of the US military presence in the country and want the base moved off the island completely.
The relocation agreement is part of a broader US strategy for a shift toward Asia that includes reconfiguring America's military presence in the region.
The move comes a day after Nakaima’s meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who pledged to allocate at least 300 billion yen ($2.9 billion) annually for Okinawa's economic stimulus budget until fiscal year 2021.
Nakaima’s decision could still face court challenges and protests. The governor is expected to announce his decision on Friday afternoon on Okinawa, where residents have already reacted furiously to the news.
“What the governor has done is unforgivable,” said Yuichi Higa, the head of the assembly in Nago city, where the new base is to be built. “Residents who are opposed will surely resort to the use of force, such as blocking roads to stop this from happening.”
The US has had a major military presence in Okinawa dating from the end of World War II. About half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan are based in Okinawa, and many residents complain about base-related crime, noise and the risk of accidents.
The new base would be built in a part of Nago city called Henoko. It is part of an agreement to move 9,000 Marines off Okinawa, including transferring 5,000 to Guam. The original agreement to close the Futenma base was signed in 1996 but has been delayed repeatedly.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)
Date created : 2013-12-27