U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and the Futenma Base Controversy [August 3, 2012] [open pdf - 621KB]
"Although the U.S.-Japan alliance is often labeled as 'the cornerstone' of security in the Asia Pacific region, local concerns about the U.S. military presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa have challenged the management of the alliance for decades. The Japanese archipelago serves as the most significant forward-operating platform for the U.S. military in the region; approximately 38,000 military personnel, 43,000 dependents, and 5,000 DOD civilian employees live in Japan. With the United States pledging to rebalance its defense posture towards Asia, the uncertainty surrounding the medium and long-term presence of American forces on Okinawa remains a critical concern for national security decision-makers. Due to the legacy of the U.S. occupation and the island's key strategic location, Okinawa hosts a disproportionate share of the continuing U.S. military presence. About 25% of all facilities used by U.S. Forces Japan and about half of the U.S. military personnel are located in the prefecture, which comprises less than 1% of Japan's total land area. Many observers assert that Tokyo has failed to communicate effectively to Okinawans the necessity and benefits of the alliance. However, Okinawa has received millions of dollars in subsidies from the central government in exchange for the burden of hosting U.S. troops. This year, Tokyo awarded a large amount to Okinawa for the prefecture's economic development plan. […] The arrangement was designed to reduce the local community's burden of hosting a loud air base that has generated safety concerns and, eventually, to return control of the Futenma land to local authorities as a way to boost economic development in the area. The controversy surrounding relocation of MCAS [Marine Corps Air Station] Futenma has overshadowed progress in the largely successful implementation of other elements of the realignment agreement."
CRS Report for Congress, R42645