17 Years Later, Okinawa OKs Relocation of US Base

And locals aren't too happy about it

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 27, 2013 5:56 AM CST | Updated Dec 27, 2013 7:56 AM CST

(Newser) – As the AFP reports, it's been "a decades-long source of friction" between Japan and the US: More than 17 years ago, Tokyo and Washington decided to move the US Marine Corps base in Futenma out of the densely populated urban area. Today, the governor of Okinawa finally gave the go-ahead for landfill work to begin on the island's coast, where the new facilities will be built. The Washington Post reports that Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima's OK ends an impasse born out of local opposition; PM Shinzo Abe ultimately dangled a big carrot: a spending package that would see Japan's poorest prefecture get $2.9 billion a year through fiscal 2021.

Still, the AP notes Nakaima later told a news conference that he would continue pressing to move the Futenma troops off Okinawa entirely, saying "my thinking remains it would be fastest to relocate outside (Okinawa) prefecture to a place where there is already an airport." It's expected that it will take about a decade to build the new base, which will feature two runways that measure more than a mile in length each. But the approval could still run up against court challenges and protests. Says a politician in the city where the new base will be constructed, "Residents who are opposed will surely resort to the use of force, such as blocking roads to stop this from happening."

In this Aug. 16, 2012 photo, a C-130 transport plane takes off from the U.S. Marine Corps base in Futenma.   (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
Hundreds of protesters stage a rally opposing the approval on the U.S. base relocation by Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, at the lobby of Okinawa prefecture's government building in Naha, Friday, Dec....   (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
In this Aug. 16, 2012 photo, CH-46 helicopters take off from the U.S. Marine Corps base in Futenma.   (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima gestures during a press conference at his governor's office in Naha, Okinawa, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
In this Nov. 30, 2012 file photo, a slogan against the base is displayed on the fence enclosed U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan on southern Japanese islands of Okinawa.   (AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa, File)
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