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Washington has maintained a neutral stance on the islands’ sovereignty, but recent administrations have considered them to be administered by Japan and thus covered by the security treaty. military facilities in Japan are on Okinawa, despite it being the poorest and among the smallest of Japan’s prefectures. An estimated 40,000 to 150,000 Okinawan citizens were killed.
Intermittent diplomatic flare-ups, including in 2013 when China announced the creation of an air defense identification zone [PDF] over the contested islands, have led many observers to fear a military clash, especially one that could draw in the United States. Many Okinawans resent military activity in the prefecture, which was the site of one of the bloodiest battles between Japanese and U. Today, one of the biggest magnets for local criticism is the U. Marine Corps Futenma air base, which is located near schools and hospitals. In a bid to ease tensions, the United States and Japan agreed in 2006 to relocate Futenma to a less populated area on Okinawa and transfer eight thousand Marines to Guam. Many residents and local officials oppose keeping the base on Okinawa, voting in early 2019 against the relocation plan.
The alliance’s 1997 framework intended to, among other things, improve Japan’s preparations for a crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
The change helped pave the way for the United States and Japan to revise their defense guidelines once again, expanding the scope of their military cooperation and focusing the alliance on current threats—including from China and North Korea—and new technologies.
The Trump administration has a made similar strategic adjustment with its Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, which analysts say is an acknowledgement of and response to China’s ambitions.
The strategy includes maintaining peace and the rule of law, reinforcing freedom of navigation at sea, respecting national sovereignty, and protecting open markets.
The United States and Japan have also launched negotiations for a free trade agreement.
At the heart of tensions between China and Japan is a long-standing territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, a cluster of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.
The two have also continued to work closely on developing ballistic-missile technology, with a 2019 U. Department of Defense report describing Japan as one of the United States’ “strongest missile defense partners” [PDF].