The future of U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station has now reached a critical stage. Situated in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, the Air Station was
due to move to Henoko, near Nago, based on the agreement reached in 1996 by the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO). However, objections to
noise and air pollution by residents of Nago have held up the move, leaving the US with few other options.
The Japan-U.S. negotiation over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station has now reached a critical stage.
The government is now proposing to the United States, the idea of relocating the F-15 squadrons to Guam. But U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
was cautious about downscaling the U.S. presence in Okinawa during a recent meeting with Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori Ono.
As long as there is no definite plan for a replacement facility, the U.S. forces have no option but to continue using Futenma Air Station. The
government appears determined to retain the 1996 handover agreement of Futenma, but so far to no avail.
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This further illustrates the tensions between the US Forces in Japan and their hosts in Okinawa.
Long been a controversial issue in Japan, the presence of US Forces around the country are generally well accepted. However, the bulk of the forces
are situated in Okinawa, an island with only 0.7% of the living area of Japan. This has led to considerable strain on the locals.
Troops in the area number around 24,000. Tensions with the locals have been high since the 1996 kidnapping and rape of a local 13 year old girl by 3
While the crime rate of 366 crimes per 10,000 Japanese males against 53 crimes per 10,000 U.S. servicemen shows that the per capita crime rate of the
servicemen is only 14 percent of that of the Japanese, locals still used the incident as a springboard to get the bases out of Okinawa.
This brought starkly into the spotlight whether US Forces were still needed in Japan. It led to the 1996 Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO).
This committee reached an agreement to move the base to another location.
While being a fair argument in 1996, the current War on Terror requires the US to have a presence in the region if it is to maintain stability of this
corner of the globe.
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