Tokyo, Dec 23 The United States returned to Japan the control of 4,000 hectares occupied until now by its military bases on the southern island of Okinawa.
The ceremony in Nago was attended by top Japanese government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga and US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy. This is the largest return of US-occupied land since 1972, when Japan regained the administration of Okinawa, where 240,000 people died during the Second World War and which had been controlled by the US ever since, reports Efe.
The returned land, which is 17 per cent of the territory administered by the US military on the island, was used for combat training in forest areas. "This decreased training area on Okinawa will not deteriorate our commitment or our ability towards working with the government of Japan and our partners in the Japan Self-Defense Forces in mutual defense of this country," US Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson said in a statement.
Nicholson added that that the US intends to return more land to Japan in the future. Opposition by the local population and politicians to US bases on the island has intensified over time owing to several incidents.
The latest took place on December 13 when one of the controversial Osprey MV-22 aircrafts, a US military aircraft which has been deployed in Japan since 2012, crashed. Okinawa shelters half of the 48,000 US troops in Japan as well as 70 per cent of the US military facilities in the country.