December 21, 2016
The United States announces the return to Japan of the Northern Training Area in Okinawa. This land return marks a milestone in the U.S.-Japan Alliance. It is the largest return of land by the United States to Japan in more than 30 years, since the reversion of Okinawa to Japan in 1972, and represents more than 20% of the land and facilities administered by U.S. Forces in Okinawa. It is the 21st of 27 Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) agreements to be implemented, demonstrating America’s commitment to fulfilling its promises to reduce the impact on the everyday lives of Okinawans, while maintaining and strengthening our important alliance.
The approximately 4000 hectares (almost 10,000 acres) of forest will become part of Japan’s natural heritage available for the enjoyment of generations of residents and visitors. This return, along with the early land returns agreed to in 2015, and those proposed in the Okinawa Consolidation Plan, will eventually result in the transfer of 68 percent of the land south of Kadena Air Base and a more than 20 percent reduction in the total amount of land and facilities administered by U.S. Forces in Okinawa.
The return will be marked by ceremonies in Tokyo on December 21 and in Okinawa on December 22. Ambassador Kennedy and U.S. Forces Japan Commander Lieutenant General Martinez will join Prime Minister Abe, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, Foreign Minister Kishida, and Defense Minister Inada at a ceremony at the Kantei at 4:40 p.m. on December 21 to mark this important and positive step in strengthening our Alliance.