News / Asia

Okinawa Governor Approves Relocation of US Marine Base

FILE - U.S military airplanes and helicopters sit on the airstrip at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station surrounded by houses in Ginowan, Okinawa, Japan.
FILE - U.S military airplanes and helicopters sit on the airstrip at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station surrounded by houses in Ginowan, Okinawa, Japan.
TEXT SIZE - +
Kent Klein
— U.S. officials are calling an agreement to move a U.S. military base on the Japanese island of Okinawa a breakthrough. Regional analysts say the Okinawa governor's decision on the deal may have been influenced by China's recent moves in the region. Still, many Okinawans remain fiercely opposed to the idea.

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima Friday approved the Japanese Defense Ministry's application to reclaim land for a proposed U.S. base on the Henoko coast. It would replace the existing Marine Corps Futenma base in the crowded city of Ginowan, and it would be part of a realignment of U.S. troops in the Asia-Pacific region.

China's increased presence in the region was a factor in the deal, said Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu.

"The sense of threat from China in Japan has palpably increased with the raising of tensions around the Senkaku / Diaoyutai Islands because the Japanese see this as an actual Chinese attempt to take what the Japanese feel is Japanese territory. So a more direct threat than they've ever seen in the postwar period."

Marine Corps Air Station, Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.Marine Corps Air Station, Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
x
Marine Corps Air Station, Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
Marine Corps Air Station, Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
Sheila Smith, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said conflict with China is felt very strongly on Okinawa.

"Those islands are located in Okinawa Prefecture, the same place as our military bases, and so this brings home, I think, to many, not only in the main islands of Japan, but to some in Okinawa as well, that this is a new era in Northeast Asia, and the strategic challenges for Japan are different than they were 17 years ago," said Smith.

The tiny, unoccupied islands are under Japanese administration, but China claims them. China recently imposed an air defense zone around the islands, causing new fears and strains in Japan.

Despite those fears, many Okinawans want Futenma base closed entirely, and the U.S. military presence sharply reduced.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged increased financial assistance to Okinawa in exchange for the new base.

Smith said Abe sought to limit the governor's political liability in the deal, in the face of intense opposition. "You have a very willing negotiator on the part of Prime Minister Abe. You have a governor who sought to find as much relief for his residents as possible. And you found, finally, the right place for the compromise to happen."

She said that protests, however, could threaten the project. "It's very hard to know, at this stage, how widespread they will be, whether or not they will be sustainable over time and whether they will get in the way of construction."

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the deal "absolutely critical to the United States' ongoing rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region."

Roy said the agreement has pushed forward both Washington's "Asia pivot" and U.S.-Japanese relations.

"It's a noteworthy breakthrough. It doesn't seal the deal in either direction, but it provides at least a hope of some progress on this issue, which has really bedeviled U.S.-Japan relations for almost 20 years now," he said.

Completion of the new air station could take about a decade. As part of the realignment, the Pentagon expects to reduce the number of Marines stationed on Okinawa from 18,000 to about 10,000. Some of the Marines will be moved to Australia, the U.S. state of Hawaii and the U.S. territory of Guam.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid