Japanese Premier Abe Shinzo has announced he is suspending construction work which is meant to facilitate the relocation of a US airbase in Okinawa to a less densely-populated part of the island. The suspension is meant to allow more conversations with local officials.
The Okinawan officials want the US bases removed from the island outright, though Abe insists that he still has every intention of relocating the base as was previously planned, simply moving it away from a crowded area.
US bases cover a significant portion of Okinawa (see picture), and Japan has to heavily subsidize those bases, established after World War 2. The US has resisted any serious efforts to reduce their presence on the island, but has accepted the idea of Japan paying for them to move to other parts of the same island.
The Futenma Air Base is by far the biggest issue for locals, since it is right in the middle of a major city, and growth of the city is significantly hampered by the presence of a big base full of US Marines. Abe insists relocation is the only option, but the locals say that the move will have an environmental impact, and the elimination of the base is preferrable.
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