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Breakthrough on Okinawa deal to see 9,000 US Marines leave Japan: officials

Major Okinawa deal announced days before Yoshihiko Noda, the Japanese prime minister, shows up in Washington.

Japan okinawa military base 2012 2 27Enlarge
Young Japanese women hold banners during a major rally against the US military at a park in Okinawa after a string of serious misconduct by its soldiers including alleged rapes in the Japan's southern island province on March 23, 2008. More than 6,000 people took part in the rally on the island, home of more than 40,000 US troops stations in Japan. (TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

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

More from GlobalPost: US bid to relocate military base in Japan meets opposition among locals

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

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/120427/okinawa-deal-sees-breakthrough-9000-us-marines-leave