GINOWAN CITY, OKINAWA, Japan –
The Marine Corps marked its return of 124 acres of land to the Government of Japan during a ceremony April 4, in Ginowan City, Okinawa, Japan.
The West Futenma Housing Area, formerly home to military families, has been vacant since 2008 and was officially turned over to the GoJ March 31.
The turn-over of the land demonstrated the further strengthening of the relationship between the United Sates and the GoJ.
“Today we commemorate the continued partnership between Japan and the United States at the national and strategic level as well as our bilateral level here,” said Maj. Gen. Charles L. Hudson, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations-Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan.
“This land return of the former West Futenma Housing Area … serves as a testament to the continuous mutual efforts of the Government of Japan and the government of the United States to pursue our goals and to maintain the strength of our alliance and friendship,” he said.
A large wooden key was passed from Hudson, to members of local and Prefectural Okinawa government during the ceremony, symbolizing the transfer of the land.
“I am convinced that the land use of the former military installations in this area will contribute not only to the promotion of Ginowan City, but also to the growth of Okinawa Prefecture,” said Takeshi Onaga, the governor of Okinawa Prefecture.
The growth will contribute “ultimately to the development of our country as a whole,” Onaga said.
The land return is the result of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa, established in November 1995, which was formed between Japan and the U.S. to help lessen the U.S. military’s footprint and give back land on the island prefecture, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website.
The return of the 124-acre West Futenma Housing Area is part of the April 2013 Okinawa Consolidation Plan, which aims to accelerate the land return agreement established by the SACO and the 2012 immediate land return Security Consultation Committee agreement.
The Marine Corps previously returned the north access road of Camp Kinser, known as the Makiminato Service Area. Other areas, which are ahead of schedule for return, are the area near Camp Kinser’s Gate 4 and a portion of the warehouse area of the Facilities and Engineering compound known as the Shirahi River Area of Camp Foster.
Possible uses of the newly returned land include an international medical hub, the relocation of Futenma high school and a residential area