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U.S. military prepares for biggest Okinawa land return since 1972

By Tim Kelly

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Here you go, Okinawa. We're giving you a jungle.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

The return of the land was agreed in 1996, but has been delayed by protesters blocking the construction of the helipads.

Can someone explain the logic in this? It escapes me.

And what bright spark thinks that returning jungle shows respect to the feelings of Okinawans? The land Okinawans want returned is Futenma, Kadena, Naha Port and Makiminato.

0 ( +11 / -11 )


As part of the 1996 SACO agreement between Washington and Tokyo, 51% of the Northern Training Area (the 51% being the harshest, most mountainous terrain farthest away from the coastal road) was to revert back to the original owners. Part of the plan was to build 6 brand new helipads near Takae, a quiet town on the coast. The new helipads are designed to handle the V-22 Osprey; the old helipads far up the mountain are not as they were built long before the V-22 came into use. Because the new helipads are Osprey capable, the area will get a lot more air traffic and noise. People are also concerned about the danger of increased air traffic (like the 2004 accident where a US Marine helicopter crashed into a local university and exploded). Environmentalists oppose the new helipads because the increased noise will damage the local wildlife, of which there are around 200 threatened or endangered species. The area was also recently made into a National Park.

The PR spin from the Pentagon is that this is a generous effort by the US to appease the locals - the truth is that the US gets rid of some crappy jungle land that they're not using anyway (the return of which was agreed 20 years ago regardless) on top of the central mountain range that's contaminated with spent rounds and old chemicals in exchange for some brand new helipads that can increase their operational range. A crackdown is happening - Tokyo lawyers are filing numerous civil suits against the protesters and a new battalion of riot police are being barracked at off season hotels near Nago to make sure the protesters don't cause any trouble. Needless to say, the US press isn't exactly over here interviewing people so they just go with the Pentagon press release.

3 ( +11 / -8 )

The land Okinawans want returned is Futenma, Kadena, Naha Port and Makiminato. those bases were once surrounded by Jungle it was the Okinawans that moved in around the bases and now 60yrs later want them back. The US bases could be in the most remote part of the island and they'd complain its too noisy, or the marines cause most of the crime etc etc etc. The US military at the invitation of the J gov will be staying put until a new base is built then they'll move and hand back the bases they vacate. Make no mistake there will be bases in Okinawa , now and in the foreseeable future.

4 ( +15 / -11 )

“We are respectful of the feelings of Okinawans that our footprint must be reduced,” Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, So lets just go ahead and shove this new base down your throats. This is because we respect you. We won the war, the land was bought for and paid for with American blood. Stop crying and just get over it.

-4 ( +10 / -14 )

A good start.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

"The return of the land was agreed in 1996, but has been delayed by protesters blocking the construction of the helipads."

Thanks a lot, protesters.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Great News! But it falls short of the goal, close ALL the bases now and bring our troops home.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Blame the okinawa government for the delay in any land return.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Welcome to the jungle

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Don't leave US, don't let them revise the sacred Article 9. Who care about your troop and those mother. The sacred anime industry is more important than some grieving mother.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

The Chinese are making a nice military base in the middle of the South China Sea. This will make a great base for the US navy in a few years.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

How much toxic waste (oil, discarded materials) is hidden under the vegetation. Who will clean it up when it is found 5 years from now?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

US should Completely Vacate the Okinawan island as the bases there are all prime targets of Chinese and N Korean missiles. Of one believe Made In China is unreliable, then beware of unreliable Chinese missiles that could fall on the civilian populations near US bases. In other words US bases in Okinawa are harmful to Okinawans, not protect them. As a consolation, let US use the waters around Okinawa, let her build Mobile Floating Platforms to house anything she want as long as they don't carry hidden nukes.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

@Bertie:I think Pentagon realizes Trump is not going to be next US President. It is easy to fool math deficient person with terrible idea but ..... How many years Okinawa has been American territory?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@toshiko: Don't forget, The pentagon considers Okinawa to be its personnel property and has no respect for its people.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Be careful, Okinawa and Okinawans, for what you protest, demand, and demand: you may just get it.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

All bases out of Okinawa now.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The invasion of Okinawa is called the Steel Typhoon because of the 96 hour bombardment which mostly killed civilians. The Japanese military left the area a long time before the attack. After the landings came the rapes, 10,000 on the first day. I talked to a US Marine a veteran of the attack and he said they shot everyone with no distinction to being civilian or military. In truth the majority of the 200,000 Okinawa people killed were from Americans. The US destroyed the roads and railroad network. Then put everyone into concentration camps. So tell me about the "kind" Americans. As for this subject the land returned is in no shape to use and will costs billions to clean up. All of the Marines need to leave Okinawa and in truth all of the bases should be closed. We will still be part of Japan and if China attacks, we will still be defended. The Americans agreed to defend all of Japan not just the parts with US bases.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

In truth the majority of the 200,000 Okinawa people killed were from Americans. much of Japan civilian population at the time was trained with weapons to resist the Americans should they invade, which is why America wanted to avoid a mainland ...... How is the US going to defend Japan from Guam!. by the time the US military arrives to protect Japan the Chinese would have already got a foothold in Okinawa. Japan wants the US protection but none of the burdens that goes with it. So if Japan does kick out the US bases (unlikely) why would the US want to continue to protect a so called friend, that clearly doesn't want them there! Its a two-way street

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Okinawans are being ridiculous

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Be careful what you wish for....

0 ( +1 / -1 )

YuriOtani, I, too, have talked to U.S. veterans of the Okinawa Campaign, read reports, and researched documentation and they all dispute that 10,000 rapes the first day thing, the shooting everyone they met without distinction and the Japanese Military had left the island assertions you make. Even in the 1940s and 30s, and later, the U.S. Military had a code of conduct and a code of justice, precursors to what we have in the US Military today, and also we were signatories to the Geneva Conventions. The JIA had none such and withdrew from the Geneva Conventions prior to the invasion of Manchuria in31 (though re-entering after the war).

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Jason Lovelace, So in other words your saying the US military is justified in forcibly imposing its will upon the Okinawan people and its perfectly acceptable to treat them as sub-human.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Okinawa belongs to the Japanese people and should return to them. IF China attack Japan, then is gonna be a world war anyway. Global disaster, and not only Okinawa's.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

OK good. now give every piece of land back to Japan!

The sooner they end the "enduring presence"/"occupation", the better

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Most of these posting are sweet music for one of the USA presidential candidates. Japan needs to pay its fair share for protection. Two choices - pay more or reduce costs.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan needs to pay its fair share for protection. Two choices - pay more or reduce costs.

Why only Japan, what about EU and much of Europe? Their high standard of living and generous social benefits are largely subsidized by American tax payer footing military presence.

If they paid their fair share, could they afford to be so magnanimous...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Some people always tell China will attack Japan.. Fact is China and Japan are best industrial partners for quite a whole. Check which countries have been rescuing US from bankrupted. When Ted Cruz refused USA rehabilitation plan in Congress, for 6 days USA was closed and China purchased US Debt. Since then, every year both countries have been purchasing US debts. Right now , Pentagon can not afford to empty any base in Japan. Even Abe get badmouthed by gaijin for Abenomic result, Abe etch knows helping US money crisis with China works better in long run.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The return of the relevant tract in Northern Training Area, also known as Jungle Warfare Training Center, was agreed to in 1996 and stipulated in that year's final report. It was good news to hear a considerable portion of the base be returned without any strings attached.

To our chagrin, however, a condition was added to the SACO agreement the following year that replacements for 6 helipads in the area promised for return be built in the remaining areas straddling between HIgashi Village and Kunigami Village.

What an abnormality that an already agreed-on diplomatic accord should be so easily altered and added with a condition post diem! That such manipulation is possible betrays the fact that all post-war bilateral agreements are always pushed ahead by the U.S. side which Japan only accepts meekly.

The 6 replacement facilities have 75 meters in diameter each with about 100-meter strips attached on both sides. Thus, these are simply not replacements for old helipads but completely new facilities for Ospreys to land and take off. It's reported that the Harrier Jump Jets will also train here for V/STOL operations.

If training with these aircraft goes into a full swing, Takae's pristine natural environment would certainly be destroyed where endangered, precious species of fauna and flora make it there their habitation. Not only that. Takae villagers will also suffer from inhumane noise pollution caused by low-flying Ospreys and Harriers, thus trampling Takae villagers' human rights to the nail, the nearest N4 facilities being only 400 meters from the village.

Close to the Ospreys' new base in Henoko, the Jungle Warfare Center will be functionally integrated with it and strengthened effectively while at the same Okinawa's feeling of excessive burden sharing may be abated as the result of returning the relevant tract, the U.S. side must have thought.

I want to ask, however: Is it absolutely necessary for the defense and security of Japan for the U.S. Marines to retain these bases and train jungle warfare skills in Okinawa?

Anyone, affiliated with Washington, please answer the question.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

USA will use new heli instead of WWII saved hell now?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The land Okinawans want returned is Futenma, Kadena, Naha Port and Makiminato.

As was noted in the article, the land will be returned to Japan, not Okinawa. The thing is, if/when Futenma gets turned over to Japan, who's to say that Japan won't use it for a JSDF base? You can ASSUME that the central government will just hand it over to the Okinawan government, but... you know what they say about when you ASSUME. As far as why Futenma hasn't been returned yet, the fault rests squarely on the shoulders of the Okinawan politicians. Futenma would already have been vacated by the U.S. if the local government hadn't blocked the additional construction at the ALREADY EXISTING base that was supposed to take on the units currently at Futenma.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

wtfjapan Jul. 30, 2016 - 05:27PM JST,

Futenma, Kadena, Naha Port and Makiminato were all surrounded by the jungles and Okinawans moved in around them as they pleased to complain about noise pollution, base-related crimes, etc. and etc.? The U.S. military, that is, the Marines in your mind, is deployed here in Futenma "at the invitation of J government"? And they won't move out from there until a new base is built in Henoko? Make no mistake the U.S. military will be here forever?

Of 33 U.S. bases in Okinawa, the only base surrounded by the jungles is Camp Gonsalves, also known as Northern Training Area or Jungle Warfare Training Center. The area has been covered with lush forests since ancient times. Do you say other bases were the same, that is, surrounded by nothing but forests and wilderness? LOL.

Take Futenma, for instance. It sits on an area called Ginowan. The old Ginowan Village was a municipality composed of a dozen villages. The U.S. occupation forces encroached upon five of these villages together with houses, farms, schools, cemeteries and what not while area residents were herded in camps. Of course, all had been destroyed by war. If you want to know how the area was like before the war, visit Ginowan City Museum in Makishi, Ginowan for confirmation(E-mail: kyoiku02@city.ginowan.okinawa.jp).

You say the U.S. military is stationed here at the invitation of the Japanese government. That may be so at the facade. But the truth is the U.S. forces are seamless carry-overs from the WW II Occupation Forces. John Foster Dulles, the U.S. chief negotiator of the Japan-U.S. security treaty, urged his staff to heed to hammering out as many conditions as possible so that the U.S. could keep unrestrained rights to use and maintain the bases. So virtual occupation continued despite Japan's recovery of sovereignty, being guaranteed by the Japan-U.S. Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. Okinawa was incorporated into this regime in 1972 where the reality of continued occupation reveals itself most conspicuously.

The Futenma relocation issue and Takae "helipad" construction issue are the telltale revelations of the still-continuing occupation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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