A long-running plan to change the location of a U.S. military base in Okinawa has finally received approval from the governor of the Japanese state. The struggle over the base has been going on for more than a decade and a half as some local residents have protested the military's presence in the region.
Here's how Time summarized the stalemate over the current Marine air station at Futenma:
Futenma is the most controversial military base on Okinawa — dangerous, some say, because of its location in the middle of Ginowan City, a town of 95,000 residents. In the mid-1990s, with Okinawa protesting en masse following the rape of a schoolgirl by three American servicemen, the U.S. agreed to shut the unpopular base to demonstrate its willingness to ease Okinawa’s burden. However, Futenma had to be moved to a new site, rather than simply closed, the U.S. government insisted, to enable the Marines to keep operating. The Futenma Relocation Facility (FRF) was thus conceived, and a site on the island’s northeastern coast identified.
Residents have been waiting a long time for the plan's approval as a myriad number of bureaucratic and political hurdles and divergences have popped up over the years. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe helped usher the deal along this week by pledging 300 billion yen, or about $2.86 billion, to Okinawa annually through 2021.
The New York Times reports that the new base further to the north will reduce the number of Marines stationed on the island substantially over the next decade, from 18,000 now down to 10,000. American officials spoke of how the deal will help augment the appearance of U.S. military strength in the Pacific, especially as tensions with China increase.