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U.S. agrees to return three Okinawa bases

Date Posted: 2006-03-17

Urasoe, Naha and Chatan will be growing in size, as the American government agrees to give back three bases in their communities.

Urasoe City will get back the Makiminato Service Area, known as Camp Kinser, while Naha Military Port reverts to Naha City control and Camp Kuwae, known as Camp Lester, is returned to Chatan Town. The decision was made over the weekend in Hawaii, where U.S. and Japanese leaders are finalizing a bilateral agreement covering realignment of U.S. troops and facilities across Japan.

The negotiators also agreed to return a portion of Camp Zukeran, known to Americans as Camp Foster, in the deal.. The agreement on the four areas will reduce the American footprint on Okinawa by five percent. Officials say the agreement will be included in the formal plan to be signed before the end of March.

There’s one technical glitch in the plan, and that’s the element of removing 7,000 Marines from the island. That move will cost $8 billion, and neither government has yet worked out who’ll pay for it.

Plans call for moving the 3rd Marine Division, part of III Marine Expeditionary Force, logistics units and a Marine air wing off Okinawa.

Almost lost in the shadow of the Okinawa dealings was an agreement –in principle, at least—to shift control of some parts of the airspace over Yokota Air Base to Japan. The U.S. Air Force currently controls the airspace over Tokyo and Yokota. Japanese officials say they’re pleased, because the agreement should reduce or eliminate airspace overcrowding caused by diversions presently required by 470 commercial flights each day.

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