The U.S. military plans to return 4,000 hectares of land in Okinawa to the Japanese government once construction work on new helipads is completed, Reuters reported Friday.
Tim Kelly writes the planned land return comes as U.S. military faces increasing resentment from local residents after the arrest in June of Kenneth Franklin, a U.S. civilian worker at a U.S. base, in association with the murder of Rina Shimabukuro, a 20-year-old Japanese woman.
“We are respectful of the feelings of Okinawans that our footprint must be reduced,” said Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, U.S. commander on the island.
The tract to be handed over accounts for 17 percent of the land the U.S. military controls and is part of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Gonsalves training base in Northern Okinawa, Kelly reports.
The report added protests over the helipad construction delayed U.S. military’s plan to return the land in 1996.
The U.S. and Japanese governments agreed to curb benefits and legal protections to some U.S. civilian employees hired to work for the military, while Nicholson declared a one-month mourning period in response to the murder, according to the report.