Partial Control of Okinawa Returned to Japan Next Week

In a historic moment next week on March 31st, the U.S. will return control of air space over Okinawa to Japan after more than six decades of American control. If you’re not familiar with the history of America and Okinawa, take a look at this earlier entry.

America first took over Okinawa in 1945 after the end of World War II as America watched over Japan’s reconstruction. Although control of the country was signed back over to Japan in 1972, 18% of the main island effectively remains American soil in the form of American military bases. Japan has sought more control of the territory for decades—Japanese lawmakers were even worried that the problems with Toyota cars in America would impede some of the current negotiations about surrendering rights to Okinawa (read more here)—so next week’s transfer of air rights is a monumental occasion for Japan.

The decision was originally reached in 2004 to be completed by 2007, but the transfer of air traffic control took some detours as negotiations were ongoing and transfer of the technical system, called the Kadena RAPCON, hit some setbacks, so in 2008, the new deadline of March 31, 2010 was arranged.

Currently, air traffic control towers on U.S. military bases handles all military and civilian flights into an area about 56-mile radius of the Kadena Air Base on the main island of Okinawa as well as air space over the nearby smaller island of Kume.

Civilian traffic into the Naha and Kume Island airports will be surrendered to Japanese control via the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, but U.S. military traffic onto the base will remain under U.S. control. The civilian portion of the Kadena RAPCON system will now be known as the Naha Approach Control.

Negotiations between the U.S. and Japan continue over surrendering more land and control of Okinawa to Japan. However, Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya believes this is an important next step for finding a way for the American military to continue operations, albeit at a reduced capacity, in Okinawa. “Although there are various tasks related to U.S. forces in Japan,” stated Okada, “I would like to overcome each issue so that the Japan-U.S. security arrangements will be operated more smoothly and effectively.”1

Do you think that returning civilian air traffic control in Okinawa to Japan is a good idea? Why do you think the U.S. held on to control for so long?

1 Associated Press. “U.S. agrees with Japan to return Okinawa air control on March 31+.” Breitbart. 18 Mar. 2010. Breaking News. 20 March 2010. .

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Tags: japan, japan news, japanese history, okinawa, politics, usa