In a statement made by US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, The United States is returning some Japanese territories that it has occupied since the Second World War. The land extends over 40 square kilometers (4,000 hectares) on the Okinawa island. The US has controlled the area since 1945. However, following the Defense Secretary statements the land would be returned over to Japan later this month. This follows a meeting that Ashton Carter attended with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Tuesday, Carter told Abe that the US had an objective of returning the land by December 22.
Reuters reported that a formal return ceremony was scheduled for December 21 and 22 according to a senior US military official. The land is located in a vast US military base complex on the Pacific island as part of a territory that was officially known as the Northern Training Area.
Washington gave back a huge part of Okinawa to Japan in 1972, this remaining part will be the largest return of the US-occupied territories since then. The return agreement was reached back in 1996 but due to protests against construction of new US military facilities, there was some delays.
The US Marines Futenma base will be relocated to a new site in Okinawa as stipulated in the deal. This is because the Futenma base is located in an area that’s densely populated.
Following the rape of a Japanese schoolgirl back in 1996 by three US troops, Tokyo and Washington agreed to relocate some US soldiers to the outskirts of Okinawa or to other areas that have less population. However, the protesters want the US military and their bases off the Japanese soil.
There’s approximately 50,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan with the majority being stationed in Okinawa, this has resulted in lots of tension for a long period. There has been two decades of protests against the US military presence on the Island.
The security alliance between Tokyo and Washington is heavily weighted by the US military bases in Japan. However, Carter made a visit to try and calm the tensions and anxieties as a result of Trump’s victory. The president-elect has called all the US allies asking them to take on the job or pay more for the military support they receive from Washington.