A controversial plan to relocate the U.S. military base currently on Okinawa to a different part of the island is moving forward, although the governor there said he will continue to fight to remove it from the island completely.
The plan, which was initially approved by the United States and Japan in 1996, will move the Futenma air base from the populated town of Ginowan to a southern part of Okinawa that is less crowded, Reuters said
. Okinawans have complained; the news agency said U.S. bases are generally associated with “crime, pollution, and noise.”
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But the project apparently is moving forward after Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima told reporters that he approved a landfill at the site, which is near Nago on the coast. That had to happen before the base could be built.
“The government has recently met our requests in compiling a plan to reinvigorate Okinawa. We felt that the Abe government's regard for Okinawa is higher than any previous governments'," Nakaima said at a news conference, Reuters reported.
The decision to move forward with the military base relocation supports Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s promises of stronger security ties with the United States.
“This decision comes after many years of sustained effort between the United States and Japan, and it is the most significant milestone achieved in these realignment efforts so far,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby, according to CNN
. “The realignment effort is absolutely critical to the United States' ongoing rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and our ability to maintain a geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable force posture in the region.”
Heightening tensions in the area may have been the reason Okinawa’s government decided to move ahead, CNN said.
“Regardless the will of the Okinawa people, the tension is heightening on (the) international front. Okinawa needs to play a certain role for that," Nakaima said, according to CNN.
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