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Iran Press TV

US returning parts of occupied land in Okinawa to Japan

Iran Press TV

Tue Dec 6, 2016 10:54AM

The United States is returning some of the Japanese territories it has been occupying since the Second World War, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says.

More than 4,000 hectares (40 square kilometers) of land on the island of Okinawa, which has been under US control since 1945, would be turned over to Japan later this month, Carter said during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Tuesday.

"We share your objective of completing the transfer by December 22," Carter told Abe.

A senior US military official said a formal return ceremony was scheduled for December 21 and 22, according to Reuters.

The land is part of a territory officially known as the Northern Training Area, located inside a vast US military base complex on the Pacific island.

This is the largest return of the US-occupied territories since 1972, when Washington gave back a large chunk of Okinawa to Japan.

The agreement for the return was reached in 1996, but faced delays due to protests against construction of new US military facilities.

Under the deal, the US Marines' Futenma base, which is currently in a heavily-populated area, would be relocated to a new site in Okinawa.

After the rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by three US troops in 1996, Washington and Tokyo agreed to relocate some US servicemen outside Okinawa or move others to less populated parts of the island.

Protesters, however, want the base and the US military off their land altogether.

Okinawa hosts the bulk of the nearly 50,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan, an issue that has turned the island into a source of enduring tensions.

Protests against the presence of US military forces on the island have been going on for around two decades

The US military bases in Japan are a key part of the security alliance between Washington and Tokyo.

Carter's visit was aimed at calming anxieties ensued from US President-elect Donald Trump's election victory last month.

Trump has called on all US allies to either pay more for the military support they receive from Washington or take on the job themselves.

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