Osprey military aircraft are seen at the U.S. Futenma airbase in Ginowan, on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, July 26, 2013. REUTERS/NATHAN LAYNE/FILE PHOTO
Reuters: U.S. military prepares for biggest Okinawa land return since 1972
The United States military said on Friday it was preparing for the biggest land return in Okinawa since 1972, as it faces a surge in opposition to its presence following the arrest of one its civilian contractors for the murder of a local woman.
Okinawa is the U.S. military's key base in Asia where it faces an increasingly assertive China. It hosts 30,000 military personnel on bases that cover a fifth of the island.
"We are respectful of the feelings of Okinawans that our footprint must be reduced,” Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, the U.S. commander on the island, said in a press release.
Once new helipads are completed, the U.S. military will hand back 4,000 hectares (40 square kilometers) of land to the Japanese government, which is 17 percent of the area it controls.
The tract is part of the U.S. Marine Corp jungle training camp known as Camp Gonsalves in Northern Okinawa.
Okinawa was under U.S. occupation until 1972.
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