Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos announced together on Friday (April 5th) to members of the media plans for finally moving forward on plans to reduce the impact of American military bases in the southern-most Japanese prefecture of Okinawa.
According to the Japanese newswire service Kyodo news the plan involves five U.S. military facilities and other areas on Okinawa's main island of Naha.
Negotiations for the return of the land have been at a standstill for decades. The island is a temporary home to the majority of more than 47,000 U.S. service personnel stationed across Japan.
While locals have been vocal about their desire to remove the bases completely, in particular the highly controversial Futenma base located in a crowded residential area, the Japanese government plans to allow the U.S. to maintain its military foothold in the Asia Pacific via Japan.
"This is a very important event for reducing the impact of our bases in Okinawa but at the same time maintaining the long-term sustainability of our bases and our ability to achieve peace and security in the region and the defence of Japan," Roos said.
While the dates for the timeline were kept vague, Futenma airbase is tentatively set to be returned by 2022.
In February Abe met with U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss the U.S.-Japan alliance and to strengthen the bond between the two nations as the threat from North Korea continues to concern both nations.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit South Korea, Japan and China from mid-April to further broaden and enhance U.S. economic, security and strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region.
Presented by Adam Justice