U.S., Japan Revisiting Guam Realignment Plan, Officials Confirm
The Defense Department said Tuesday that U.S. and Japanese officials met to discuss changes to the current plan to move 8,600-plus Marines from Okinawa to Guam, but insisted than no decisions have been made yet to scale back the number of troops that would be stationed in Guam.
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.
DOD spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde said that representatives of the two nations were discussing changes to the existing agreements that describe the link between relocating Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, the realignment to Guam and the return of land on Okinawa.
“The [U.S. government] remains committed to enhancing the U.S.-Japan alliance and strengthening operational capabilities while significantly reducing the impact of U.S. bases on the Okinawan people,” Hull-Ryde said.
The agreement the two sides reportedly are trying to reach would allow some of the Marines on Okinawa to move to Guam before the Japanese government has made a decision regarding the replacement of Futenma, as the current agreement calls for. Futenma would be relocated to Camp Schwab, also in Okinawa, under the existing plan, but that stance has proved very unpopular among Okinawa residents, who would like the base moved elsewhere in Japan or overseas.
“We are not at a point where we can discuss the details, but we are looking into ways to reduce the burden on Okinawa as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told Parliament Tuesday, according to ABC News.