The US and Japan have reached a breakthrough agreement that will move 9,000 US Marines off Japan's Okinawa, the Pentagon announced late Thursday.
Japanese foreign minister Koichiro Genba today hailed the move as “a forward-looking and concrete one that prioritizes reducing the burden on Okinawa, including the return of land," reported The New York Times.
The new deal, which CNN said slashes US military presence on the island nearly in half, comes a week ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's arrival in Washington for talks with US President Barack Obama, according to the The Washington Post.
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The governments jointly announced that the forces will be sent to ''locations outside of Japan,'' according to BBC, with some forces to be deployed to Guam, Hawaii and elsewhere in the Asia Pacific.
The revised agreement carefully side-steps the pitfalls of an earlier 2006 arrangement stalled by a requirement that Japan find a new location for the Futenma air base, said the Times.
The fate of US base remains unclear. Officials told the Times that a proposal moving the base to remote northern area had support from both sides but no deadline had been set.
Okinawa residents have long resented the US Marine presence on their land, but they began to protest heavily following the 1995 gang rape of a young girl by three US Marines and the alleged 2008 rape of a 14-year-old local schoolgirl.
No timetable was released for the Marines' withdrawal from Okinawa, which also hosts the largest American airfield in the region, said the Times.
The total US military presence in Japan is about 50,000, according to BBC.