US military bases on Okinawa an unwelcome legacy of war with Japan
The Japanese archipelago of Okinawa was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. Over 82 days in early 1945, an estimated 200,000 soldiers and civilians died in a "typhoon of steel". The legacy of war survives to this day. The United States never left the islands, setting up 32 military bases there. They were used during the wars in Vietnam and Korea, as well as more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The archipelago of Okinawa makes up less than one percent of Japan’s land surface, yet it hosts almost two-thirds of the country’s US bases. Residents of Okinawa have long demanded that the US military leave their islands. They complain about crimes committed by military personnel, noise pollution and the risk of accidents involving aircraft. But their demands have been ignored.
Work has now begun on a new base in a remote part of the main island. It will replace another facility located in the middle of a densely populated city. Yet the move has encountered fierce local opposition. In February, the people of Okinawa prefecture overwhelmingly opposed the new base in a referendum. But the government announced that work on the new facility would continue.