U.S. welcomes start of work for Okinawa Marine base relocation

A U.S. government spokeswoman said Thursday that Washington welcomes the start of preparatory work in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture toward the construction of a coastal facility that will accommodate a U.S. Marine Corps base from a densely populated area in the prefecture.

"It's a critical step toward realizing our shared vision for the realignment of U.S. forces in Okinawa," Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, told reporters.

The Japanese government installed buoys to cordon off a stretch of shoreline of the Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture amid demonstrations by protestors. Waters off Henoko will be the site of a replacement facility for the Futenma base.

The Japanese and U.S. governments have agreed to relocate the Futenma base to the Henoko area from Ginowan based on a plan originally compiled in 1996.

"The relocation of the Marine Corps air station there will reduce our footprint in the most populated part of Okinawa and enable the return of significant land back to the people of Okinawa," Harf said.

Many people in Okinawa, which already hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, are calling on the Japanese and U.S. governments to relocate the Marine air field to outside the island prefecture.