Nearly 80 percent of people in Japan think the burden on Okinawa in hosting the bulk of U.S. forces in the country is not fair compared with other prefectures, a Kyodo News survey showed Wednesday.
The nationwide mail survey, conducted ahead of the 50th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japanese administration on May 15, found that 58 percent of respondents supported transferring some of the U.S. military facilities outside of the southern prefecture.
But 69 percent opposed relocating the bases to areas where they live, although 79 percent believe the burden on Okinawa was unequally large.
Okinawa remained under U.S. rule until 1972 even after Japan regained sovereignty in 1952 following the country's defeat in World War II. It is home to 70 percent of the total acreage exclusively used by U.S. military installations in Japan despite being about 0.6 percent of the country's total area.
In the poll, 51 percent said they believe U.S. bases in Okinawa should be reduced significantly, while 6 percent responded they should be totally 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 the North Korean nuclear and missile threat grows in the region. Okinawa is also near Taiwan.
Japan and the United States are pushing for the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in a residential area of Ginowan to the less populated coastal area of Henoko in Nago.
But 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 percent are not supportive of the current relocation plan, which dates back to a 1996 Japan-U.S. agreement on returning the land occupied by the Futenma base.
Of the 64 percent, about a quarter believe the base should be relocated outside of Japan, a quarter think it should be moved out of Okinawa to another prefecture, while a fifth said it should continue to be used.
The survey also found that 65 percent think the security alliance between Japan and the United States should remain as is, but 22 percent believe it should be strengthened and 11 percent said it should be weakened.
The poll was conducted on 3,000 randomly selected people aged 18 and older from March to April with valid responses received from 1,958.