By Peter Sullivan - 12/27/13 08:20 AM EST
The local government in Okinawa, Japan, agreed Friday to allow the relocation of a U.S. air base there in a move seen as a crucial step in developing the U.S. presence in Asia.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that the governor of the island of Okinawa approved landfill work Friday at the new location for the Marines’ Futenma air station.
The approval breaks a yearslong stalemate, in which the U.S. and the central Japanese government had agreed to move the base, but the local government objected to a new site on an island that already has a heavy U.S. military presence.
“Reaching this milestone is a clear demonstration to the region that the alliance is capable of handling complex, difficult problems in order to deal effectively with 21st century security challenges,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement to The Washington Post.
The new base is part of a build-up of U.S. forces in Asia that is seen as a check on China's rising influence.