I am honored to join the Chief Cabinet Secretary today to announce an important agreement between the Governments of Japan and the United States regarding the early return of land in Okinawa. Mr. Chief Cabinet Secretary, I want to salute you and the Prime Minister for your leadership, and your deep commitment to improving the lives of the citizens of Okinawa on a daily basis.
I would like to express the gratitude of the people of the United States to all the base-hosting communities of Japan, particularly those in Okinawa, who have supported and welcomed the U.S. military for generations. I know how hard the men and women of our armed forces strive to be good neighbors at the same time as they perform their critical mission to uphold our treaty commitments, strengthen the U.S.-Japan Alliance, and ensure a peaceful and prosperous region.
I would like to take a moment to thank a few people who have been critical to the success of this effort. Thank you, General Dolan for your leadership, and thanks also to General Nicholson in Okinawa for his essential support. We are grateful to United States Forces – Japan, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, and our Japanese colleagues from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense for their hard work in making today possible. Special thanks to my colleagues at the U.S. Embassy, our consulate in Naha, and back in Washington, D.C. who have seen this process through from beginning to end.
As the Chief Cabinet Secretary said, these returns will have a positive impact on the daily lives of the people of Okinawa. They will allow the widening of Route 58 in a congested area. They will provide access and accelerate development of the West Futenma Housing Area which was returned last March, as well as the area along the border of MCAS Futenma.
We are pleased that the parcels we discuss today are being returned ahead of schedule. But it is important to remember that they are part of the much larger Okinawa Consolidation Plan and overall strategic realignment of our forces in the Pacific region. When fully implemented, this plan will dramatically reduce the impact of the U.S. military presence on Okinawa – resulting in the return of 68% of the land south of Kadena Air Base, and the return of 4,000 hectares of pristine land in northern Okinawa. All together, these returns will represent a more than 20% reduction in the total amount of land and facilities administered by U.S. Forces in Okinawa.
The U.S. government remains committed to executing this entire plan at the earliest possible date, and we look forward to working with the Government of Japan to make that happen.
Thank you very much.