The long goodbye to Okinawa

US military bases on OkinawaBy Christian Le Miere, Research Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

Just before Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda arrived in Washington this week to meet US President Barack Obama, the two countries announced that nearly 9,000 US Marines would be shipped off the Japanese island of Okinawa. The continuing US military presence there, more than 60 years after the end of the Second World War, has been increasingly controversial, especially after a local schoolgirl was raped by US troops in 1995.

Last Thursdays’s announcement was the latest twist in a long-running saga over how to manage a withdrawal and relocation of Marines from and within Okinawa (click on map, left). Faced with local residents’ resistance to a continuing US presence on Okinawa, the new US-Japanese agreement has slightly upped the number of US troops to be removed from the island and makes no mention of any internal relocation there.

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