After years of controversy and disagreement, the U.S. and Japan agreed last week to decouple the terms of an agreement to close the U.S. Marines’ Futenma air base in Okinawa, after negotiations over relocating the base elsewhere on the island had reached a stalemate.
The 2006 agreement had required the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to another site on Okinawa as a precondition for reducing the amount of U.S. troops stationed there. But heavy opposition among residents of Okinawa to hosting a new base, even in a less populated part of the island, had made the issue a political hot potato in Japan. The inability to find a solution contributed to the fall of the government of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in June 2010. Hatoyama had campaigned on a promise to scrap the agreement altogether.
The U.S. now plans to redeploy 8,000 Marines, with 4,700 moving to bases in Guam and the rest rotating among other bases throughout the region, including in the Philippines and Australia.