The US military says it plans to return 17 percent of the land it holds for its military base in Okinawa, Japan, the largest land return since 1972, amid growing opposition to its presence following the arrest of one its civilian contractors for the murder of a local woman.
Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, the US commander on the island, said Friday the US military will hand back 4,000 hectares (40 square kilometers) of land to the Japanese government, which is 17 percent of the area it controls.
“We are respectful of the feelings of Okinawans that our footprint must be reduced,” Nicholson said in a press release.
The US military base in Okinawa, which covers a fifth of the island, hosts 30,000 military personnel. Okinawa was under US occupation until 1972.
After the rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by three US troops in 1996, Washington and Tokyo agreed to relocate some US servicemen outside Okinawa or move others to less populated parts of the…