If you’re into planes, the hilltop park overlooking the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is not a bad place to be. You can watch cargo planes make wide circles over the green hills of Okinawa all day, swooping down to the airfield below for a landing or practice drop, and lifting back up into the overcast winter sky. You can also get a pretty good idea of how the locals feel about those planes. A decidedly unsubtle placard at the overlook shows an aerial photo of the airstrip and the surrounding neighborhood rammed up against its fences. Every elementary school, kindergarten, hospital, elderly-care center, playground and religious institution within crashing distance is marked. Quite clearly. In English.
For years, residents in the Okinawan city of Ginowan have called for the Futenma air base to leave their neighborhood. And for years, residents near Camp Schwab, a more remote Marine base on the north of the island that the U.S. and Japan have agreed will absorb Futenma, have been protesting that too. The Okinawans’ standoff – fueled as much if not more by resentment of Tokyo than the U.S. – has been a major headache between Japan and the U.S. at a time when both sides are looking to strengthen security ties in the face of the looming specter of a stronger and more assertive China.
This week, something resembling a resolution — or at least a step forward in some direction — may be coming into focus.
Read the full piece at Time’s Global Spin blog here.