Okinawa approves US airbase relocation


TOKYO: Japan’s Okinawa on Friday approved the long-stalled relocation of a controversial United States (US) military base, the defense ministry said, a breakthrough that looks set to remove a decades-long source of friction between Tokyo and Washington.

Local bureaucrats signed a document that gives the governor’s green light to a landfill, paving the way for the construction of a new base on the coast.

The defense ministry’s Okinawa bureau confirmed that it had received the document, which bore the governor’s seal, from local government officials.

“The office received the document at 10:50 a.m. It was approved,” said a ministry official at the bureau.

After years of staunch opposition, Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima this week met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who pledged a big cash injection into Okinawa’s economy every year until 2021.

Nakaima’s nod marks a breakthrough on an original 1996 agreement to shut the Futenma airbase, which is in a densely populated urban area.

The United States affirmed in 2006 it would re-site the base on the coast, but the move has been stymied by opposition throughout Okinawa, which feels overburdened by its outsized share of the American military presence in Japan.

The governor is expected to announce his decision on Friday afternoon on Okinawa, where local residents have already reacted furiously to the news.



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