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U.S. military base relocations move ahead in Japan, South Korea

By Elizabeth Shim
U.S. military base relocations move ahead in Japan, South Korea
About 100 protesters gathered again outside a U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan, as work began on a new U.S. facility in the Henoko area of the island. Photo by Hitoshi Maeshiro/EPA

April 25 (UPI) -- U.S. military bases in South Korea and Japan are forging ahead with planned relocations, but in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture a new U.S. base on the island is being met with local opposition.

The relocation in Japan has been a work in progress since 1996, and the United States and Japan had agreed a relocation facility in the Henoko area in Okinawa would be the "only solution" to problems with the current U.S. Air Station Futenma, Kyodo News reported Tuesday.

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But about 100 protesters gathered outside the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Schwab on Tuesday to express the disapproval of their government's decision.

As landfill work began inside sea walls in the coastal area of Nago, demonstrators, some of who showed up in canoes, called the work "illegal."

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"They should not make Okinawa shoulder the burden of hosting [U.S.] bases anymore," said 64-year-old Yumiko Gibo, citing the 1995 rape of a local girl by U.S. servicemen.

The governor of Okinawa has said he would be looking into blocking the construction by filing a lawsuit, according to the report.

Tokyo's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday the move would be good because it would mean the return of the U.S. airfield location at Futenma to Japanese hands.

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In South Korea, U.S. and South Korean military generals gathered to hold a ceremony for the planned relocation of the U.S. 8th Army from its base in Seoul's Yongsan neighborhood to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, a city south of the capital, Stars and Stripes reported.

The 8th Army's commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal said Tuesday the alliance with South Korea remains "ironclad and strong" as the move began with preparations to relocate a bronze statue of Korean War hero Lt. Gen. Walton Walker.

"I can assure you at the unveiling of the statue this summer that Gen. Walker will once again point toward the North as an everlasting reminder of the threat that we face," Vandal said.

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North Korea's provocations have continued in recent weeks.

Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun stated in an editorial Tuesday its army has the capacity to "respond to any war the United States wants," and that the "era of the U.S. imperialist's nuclear terror has ended forever," because North Korea has developed its own nuclear capacity.

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