This month, the US military will return to Japan over 9,800 acres of land it has held on Okinawa since World War II, according to US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
The 9,852 acres are officially known as the Northern Training Area. It is part of a large US military base on the island located 960 miles (1,550 kilometers) southwest of Tokyo.
Most of the land that the US controlled on Okinawa after WWII was returned to the Japanese government in 1972. This is the largest return of land from the US since that time.
Japan has agreed to build six helicopter landing sites and access roads to allow US troops to continue training in the area. The US will continue to assist in maintaining the area used for jungle training. The two sides have been in negotiations concerning the handover since the 1990s.
Carter made the announcement beside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Abe’s Tokyo office, known as the Kantei.
The formal handover is scheduled for December 21 and 22. US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and the commander of US Forces Japan, Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez are expected to attend. There are more than 52,000 US troops in Japan and around another 50,000 civilian personnel, contractors, and dependents.
About half of those troops are stationed on Okinawa. Relations between residents of the island and US military personnel have deteriorated recently, CNN Politics reported. The governor of Okinawa, Takeshi Onaga, said at a protest in June that he would strongly ask the Japanese government to move all US military bases off Okinawa.