Marine Corps Realignment No Longer Linked to Futenma Progress
The relocation of thousands of Marines from Okinawa to Guam no longer will be linked to Japan’s effort to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, surmounting one of the key obstacles to the realignment.
“We decided to choose to reduce Okinawa’s burden as much as possible rather than being stuck in a stalemate by sticking to an earlier package,” Japan Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said.
In announcing the change, U.S. and Japanese officials on Wednesday said they had not yet made any decisions to scale down the planned move of 8,600 Marines to Guam.
“We are also reviewing the unit composition and the number of Marines who will relocate to Guam and we continue to be committed to achieving an end-state Marine presence remaining on Okinawa in line with the Roadmap,” according to the two nations’ joint statement.
Last week, Bloomberg News reported that President Obama planned to cut the number of Marines moving to Guam to about 4,500, with the remaining contingent rotating to other points in the Asia-Pacific region such as Australia, the Philippines, and Hawaii.
The decision would allow the buildup on Guam to prepare for the realignment to move ahead, reported the Pacific Daily News. And the possibility of a smaller contingent of troops could ease concerns that the island’s infrastructure would not be able to handle the influx.
The 2006 Realignment Roadmap previously had called for the transfer of Marines from Okinawa to Guam if a replacement for Futenma could be built elsewhere on Okinawa. Despite the decision to separate the two moves, the two nations reiterated that the current plan to move Futenma to Camp Schwab, also in Okinawa, “is the only viable way forward.” That plan is very unpopular among Okinawa residents, who would like the base moved elsewhere in Japan or overseas.
The move of Marines to Guam and the Futenma relocation are designed to lessen the impact of the Marine presence on the island of Okinawa, develop Guam as a strategic hub with an operational Marine Corps presence and maintain a presence in the region that is geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable, DOD press secretary George Little said, reported American Forces Press Service.