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Japan Welcomes US Base Agreement

Miguel Quintana | Tokyo April 27, 2012

The Japanese government is welcoming an agreement with the United States on the redeployment of U.S. marines from Okinawa.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba described the agreement as a positive achievement.

He said the transfer of 9,000 marines to Guam and other Asia-Pacific sites and the eventual return of several military facilities represent concrete steps towards reducing the burden of the U.S. military presence in Okinawa.

Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka said the deal will maintain and reinforce the deterrence posed by U.S. forces in the region.

The deal calls for separate discussions on the issue of Futenma, a U.S. base located in the heart of an urban area. In 2006, Japan and the United States agreed to move the base within the prefecture to the more rural area of Henoko.

But the plan has faced strong local opposition, including by the governor of Okinawa, who wants the base to be moved outside the prefecture.

Defense Minister Tanaka said the choice of Henoko remains the “only viable option” for the relocation of Futenma.

Tanaka said the government is not considering any alternatives because they would be too difficult to implement.

The governor of Okinawa said Friday that he welcomed the government’s efforts to decouple the issue of Futenma from the deal over the local bases. He said he’s waiting to learn exactly when the military facilities will be returned to Okinawa.

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