After years of wrangling, Japan and the United States have agreed to a withdrawal of 9,000 US soldiers from a military base situated on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.
According to a joint statement published in Tokyo and Washington, the troops are now to be moved to Guam, Hawaii and Australia, giving no timetable for the move.
About 10,000 Marines will remain on Okinawa, which has been a key element of the US military presence in Asia for decades.
The United States had already reached an agreement with the previous Japanese government to create a new base on a less densely populated island on the west coast and to relocate the remaining US troops on Okinawa.
In recent years there have frequently been protests against the US Futenma Air Base on the island, where about half of the 47,000 US troops in Japan are stationed.
While the local economy on Okinawa benefits from the presence of troops, many residents blame the presence of the soldiers for a rise in crime, noise pollution and traffic accidents.
The protests began in 1995 when the rape of a twelve-year-old girl by three US soldiers in. This triggered mass demonstrations against the base, in which up to 85,000 people took to the streets.
Washingtonhas said the removal of the troops was part of a regional reorganization of the armed forces in response to the changing security situation in the Asian region. Japan is the closest US ally in Asia.
The announcement of the accord comes ahead of an upcoming visit by Japanese Prime Minster Yoshihiko Noda's to Washington.
rg/mz (AFP, APE, dpa)