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.
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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More