Nearly 80% of people in Japan support moving U.S. bases out of Okinawa

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Nearly 80% of people in Japan support moving U.S. bases out of Okinawa

Nearly 80% of people in Japan think Okinawa's burden in hosting the bulk of U.S. forces in the country is not fair compared to other prefectures, according to a survey released Wednesday.

According to the nationwide mail survey conducted by Kyodo News ahead of the 50th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japanese administration on May 15, 58% of respondents supported transferring some of the U.S. military facilities outside of the prefecture.

But 69% opposes moving bases to areas where they live, although 79% believe the burden on Okinawa is unaqually large.

Okinawa remained under U.S. rule until 1972, even after Japan regained sovereignty in 1952 after defeating World War II. It is the home of 70% of the total acreage exclusively used by U.S. military installations in Japan despite being about 0.6% of the country's total area.

According to the poll, 51% said they believe U.S. bases in Okinawa should be reduced significantly, while 6% said they should be completely removed. Forty percent said the bases are fine as they are.

Okinawa remains important for the United States as it serves as a strategic hub for its military operations in the Pacific, as China's presence expands and North Korea's nuclear and missile threat grows in the region. Okinawa is also close to Taiwan.

Japan and the U.S. are pushing for the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is located in the center of the city of Ginowan, to the less populated coastal area of Henoko in Nago.

The transfer has met with strong opposition from people in Okinawa, many of whom have urged that the air base be moved out of the prefecture.

The poll found that 64% are not supportive of the current relocation plan, which dates back to a 1996 Japan-U. The agreement was reached on restoring the land occupied by the Futenma base.

Of the 64%, about a quarter think the base should be relocated outside Japan, a quarter thinks it should be moved out of Okinawa to another prefecture, while a fifth thinks it should continue to be used.

The survey also found that 65% of the respondents think the security alliance between Japan and the United States should remain as is, but 22% think it should be strengthened and 11% think it should be weakened.

The poll, which was conducted from March to April, included 3,000 randomly selected people, age 18 and older, with valid responses from 1,958.