US to Return Some Land on Okinawa Military Base to Japan

VIDEO: Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement in Tokyo on
WATCH US to Return Some Land on Okinawa Military Base to Japan

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday that the U.S. will return some land on its military base in Okinawa to the Japanese government.

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He made the announcement at a meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

The Japanese government said it will build six helicopter landing zones and access roads so U.S. forces can continue to train and operate at the base.

Residents have grown increasingly frustrated with the U.S. military presence on Okinawa, fueled by a series of incidents involving American service members stationed there. Large crowds gathered on the small island over the summer to protest a U.S. contractor's alleged rape and murder of a local Japanese woman.

In March of 2016, an American sailor was arrested on a charge of raping a Japanese woman. And just before that incident, Stars and Stripes reported that a 33-year-old Navy lieutenant was arrested for allegedly groping a 19-year-old Japanese woman on an airplane and punching her multiple times in the head.

A senior defense official told ABC News that the agreement will formalize the largest land return by the United States to Japan since 1972.

The official called it "a positive development for the alliance, demonstrating the ongoing commitment of both governments to the realignment of U.S. forces."

A ceremony for the return will take place on Dec. 21 and 22.