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Japan Agrees To Okinawa Military Base Relocation

Colin Hale |
December 27, 2013 | 7:28 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

Marines board a plane at Futenma Air Station/via U.S. Pacific Fleet
Marines board a plane at Futenma Air Station/via U.S. Pacific Fleet
The government of Japan's Okinawa prefecture approved a plan on Friday to relocate the U.S. military base located on the island, despite continued pressure from residents and some in Japan to close the base entirely.

The governor of Okinawa reluctantly approved the controversial plan after pressure from the United States and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The plan, which was first agreed upon in 1996, would move the Futenma Air Station from a heavily populated area in Ginowan to a new location near the town of Nago.

The U.S. Department of Defense applauded the approval, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel saying in a statement that the "realignment effort is absolutely critical to the United States' ongoing rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region."

The U.S. currently stations around 18,000 troops in Okinawa and 47,000 troops in Japan overall.  Once the new station is built, that number in Okinawa should drop to near 10,000 with troops being deployed in other bases in the Asia Pacific region, including Guam and Australia.

Japan and the United States are increasingly concerned with expanding their military presences in the Asia Pacific region to counter China's military rise and recent announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea.

China's ADIZ announcement comes during continued tensions with Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan over a group of islands, known in Japan as Senkaku.

Read more about the Okinawa base agreement at The Guardian, Reuters, and Washington Post.

Reach Executive Producer Colin Hale here. Follow him on Twitter.



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