Eight Thousand U.S. Marines to Move From Okinawa to Guam

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

April 26, 2006  - The United States will move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam by 2012, Defense Department officials said here yesterday.

The move is part of a broader Alliance Transformation Realignment agreement between the U.S. and Japan. An agreement in principle for the move was made in October with the Security Consultative Committee Report. It was finalized April 23, when U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Japanese Minister of State for Defense Fukushiro Nukaga met at the Pentagon to work out cost-sharing particulars, DoD officials said.

"The Marine relocation to Guam should be seen in the context of the whole range of changes being made to transform the alliance," Richard Lawless, deputy undersecretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, told reporters at the Pentagon. "The idea is to resolve, in one fell swoop, all or almost all of the long-standing issues that have inhibited the alliance going forward.

"It's a very important part, but it's just one part of something that is much, much larger in the relationship between ourselves and the government of Japan," he continued.

Implementation procedures for the relocation are still being drawn up and fine-tuning of the total realignment package is ongoing, he said.

Defense officials characterized the realignment of U.S. forces in the Pacific as a strategic move, similar to domestic Base Realignment and Closure moves.

"In many ways this is similar to the resource trades that we've made to secure broader transformation domestically with BRAC," Philip W. Grone, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, said. "These are choices we've made in the broader national interest."

Lawless said the alliance transformation will make the partnership between Japan and the United States more balanced, with Japan assuming more responsibilities in the relationship. "We're trying to transform this alliance to one that is much more balanced, interoperational, where roles and missions are more clearly shared among one another," Lawless said.

The realignment limits the burden of the Japanese people but still allows the U.S. to maintain credibility and deterrence in the region. "That's the balance we've struck with this particular arrangement," he said.

Some U.S. troops will remain on Okinawa but will be moved from the Futenma Air Station to a new location at Camp Schwab. "Futenma involves a relocation of forces on Okinawa," Lawless said. "It's part of a consolidation."

Lawless said U.S. forces and the Japan Self-Defense Force are cooperating in a number of other areas as well, including with air defenses and the collocation of troops at Yokota Air Base, Japan. "That is a very tangible benefit to the alliance. That we are collocating our forces makes us much more interoperable and creates a truly bilateral interoperative, balanced alliance," he said.

In addition, the USS George Washington will be based in Japan in coming years, which demonstrates the importance the U.S. places on the alliance, Lawless said. "This is the only place a carrier will be based outside of the United States of America," he said. "We told the Japanese people we'd only send the best capability, and that's what we're doing with the George Washington."


Philip W. Grone []

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