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    (FILES) A file picture taken on April 24, 2010 shows planes and helicopters stationed at the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma base in Ginowan, Okinawa prefecture

    US Will Return 1% of Okinawa Military-Held Land to Japan in 2017

    © AFP 2019 / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA
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    Washington and Tokyo announced in a joint statement on Friday that they are planning to return less than 1 percent of the land held by the US military in Okinawa to local residents by 2017.

    TOKYO (Sputnik) — US Ambassador to Tokyo Caroline Kennedy and Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga issued the statement, according to which four out of a total of 481 hectares of US military land, located in the highly-populated district of Ginowan city, will be returned its residents.

    Two decades ago, the Japanese government decided to close the US military base in Ginowan. They initially intended to relocate the base outside the prefecture but earlier this year, the government resumed construction of a US military base in Okinawa.

    The return of the land to local Okinawa residents comes amid tensions over the expansion of the US base there, as the Japanese government stood by its decision to move the military to another location, while Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga refused to fulfill Tokyo's recommendations to accept the relocation of the US base, concerned by its the negative projected ecological impact.

    The Tokyo-US decision to return nearly 1 percent of land occupied by a US military base in Okinawa to local residents is politically motivated, governor Takeshi Onaga said.

    "It looks like this is artificial," Onaga was quoted by the Kyodo news agency as saying.

    He added that the move demonstrates the influence of "a strong political aspect."

    Earlier this week, a court hearing was initiated in Japan over the dispute.

    Okinawa witnessed a series of ferocious battles at the end of WWII which many believe attributed to the US move to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which forced the Empire of Japan surrender.

    Okinawa constitutes less than 1 percent of Japan's overall territory but hosts some 74 percent of the country's total US military presence, many of which are remnants of WWII, as Okinawa remained under US control until 1972.

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    Tags:
    military bases, Takeshi Onaga, Japan, United States, Okinawa
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