Tokyo, Dec. 21 (Jiji Press)--The Japanese and U.S. governments reached a formal agreement on Wednesday on the return of about half of a U.S. military training site in Okinawa Prefecture, southern Japan, to Japan on Thursday.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy jointly announced the return of the land, totaling some 4,000 hectares, the largest such transfer since the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japanese administration.
"While making efforts to maintain the (U.S. military's) deterrence power, we aim to reduce steadily Okinawa's burden of hosting U.S. bases," Abe said.
Stressing that the U.S.-Japan alliance is stronger than ever, Kennedy said the United States will continue to work closely with Japan in tackling many challenges.
In a final report of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa, released in December 1996, Japan and the United States agreed on the partial return of the 7,500-hectare site of the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Gonsalves on condition that six helipads were created in the remaining area.