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US, Japan reach Okinawa land deal

Ambassador John Roos (left)

Ambassador John Roos (left)

TOKYO — Japan and the United States said Friday that they have agreed on plans for returning to Japan land near Kadena Air Base on the southern island of Okinawa that is now used by US troops, in an effort to balance local concerns with support for the countries’ military alliance.

A statement issued by both sides characterized the plan as a realignment and consolidation of US forces in Okinawa.

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‘‘Recognizing the strong desires of Okinawa residents, this consolidation plan is to be implemented as soon as possible while ensuring operational capability, including training capability, throughout the process,’’ it said.

Okinawa was invaded by US forces in World War II and has had an American military presence ever since. Tensions over land use, crimes committed by military personnel, and disruptions by military flights on the heavily populated island have been building.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US Ambassador John Roos announced the pact Friday.

‘‘This is a very important event for reducing the impact of our bases in Okinawa, but at the same time maintaining the long-term sustainability of our bases and our ability to achieve peace and security in the region and the defense of Japan,’’ Roos said.

The plans call for returning more than 1,400 acres of land near Kadena. The facilities and land are being returned to Japan as replacement sites become available and troops are transferred out of Japan.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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