By NVONews.Com Correspondent,
When tension is brewing up in Far East the United States on Friday announced that it would be withdrawing at least 9,000 troops from the country, which it nuked twice and subsequently occupied, 67 years ago in August 1945.
A joint statement published in Tokyo and Washington said that the troops are now to be pulled out from southern Japanese island of Okinawa and moved to Guam, Hawaii and Australia. However, no timetable has been given.
Still, about 10,000 Marines will remain on Okinawa, which has been a key element of the US military presence after the World War-II and Korean War (1950-53).
The US military base in Okinawa is often called “the US unsinkable aircraft carrier” due to its strategic proximity from China, Taiwan and North Korea. Okinawa continues to host more than half of the 47,000 US troops stationed in Japan.
The latest decision came after a prolong struggle by a large number of Japanese, who resent the presence of the army of foe-turned-friend for the last so many decades. A Japanese poll done in 2009 revealed that 70 percent of Okinawans want the US troops out.
The first time the people took to streets was in 1995 when three US soldiers raped a 12-year old school girl. This enraged the local population and as high as 85,000 marched on the streets protesting against their immediate withdrawal.
The demands to close the base grew even stronger when a US helicopter crashed in the ground of a university in 2004.
Again on Nov 8, 2009, on the eve of President Obama’s visit to Japan an estimated 21,000 Japanese rallied in Okinawa in protest against the US military base on the island. The rally was organized to put pressure on the new center-left government of Japan.
The election of the then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and of his center-left coalition government, which ended 40 years of conservative rule, had brought up the issue to the centre of Japan’s national political debate. This put some strain to Tokyo’s relation with Washington.
The United States had already reached an agreement with the previous Japanese government to create a new base on a less densely populated island on the west coast and to relocate the remaining US troops on Okinawa.
In recent years there have been frequent protests against the Futenma Air Base of the United States on the island, where about half of the 47,000 US troops in Japan are stationed.
While the local economy of Okinawa is being benefited from the presence of US troops, many residents blame them for a rise in crime, noise pollution and traffic accidents. The 1995 rape incident worked only as a spark.
Reports from Washington said the removal of the troops was part of a regional reorganization of the armed forces in response to the changing security situation in the Asian region..
Friday’s announcement of the accord comes ahead of an upcoming visit by Japanese Prime Minster Yoshihiko Noda’s to Washington.
But the unanswered question is: why Obama took such a major decision in the election year and that too when China and its ally North Korea are flexing their muscles all over the region.