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The recent election was intended to give the country a fresh start.

Almost 50,000 US military personnel are stationed in Japan, more than half on the island of Okinawa.

But their presence has often been controversial.

Cases of rapes, robberies, assaults and drink-driving by US marines has brought thousands of local people on the streets to protest.

And anger has continued to mount about the sheer scale of US operations, which take up 20 per cent of the island.

Japan spends about $4bn per year to support US troops.

Yukio Hatoyama, Japan's prime minister, campaigned last year with a promise to move Futenma airbase out of Okinawa, overshadowing the 50-year anniversary of the US-Japan security treaty.

The Okinawa base is vital to the US in protecting its interests in Asia. But it is also important to Hatoyama, whose popularity is plummeting in the polls and who badly needs to win a majority in the parliament's upper house elections in July.

On this edition of 101 East, we look at the future of US military bases in Japan.

This 101 East episode aired from Thursday, May 13, 2010.

Source: Al Jazeera