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Defense Minister thinks U.S. Marines needed in Okinawa

Date Posted: 2010-02-25

Saying U.S. Marines play a “very important role” in preventing regional military conflicts, Japan’s Defense Minister says he is strongly opposed to transferring the Marines now on Okinawa to Guam.

Toshimi Kitazawa says the 18,000 Marines here are necessary to maintain a deterrent against China, which, he told a political rally in Fukuoka Prefecture, has been conducting maritime surveys using submarines in Japanese waters. “Chinese submarines have been frequently navigating around Japanese islands in the sea area covering Kagoshima, Okinawa and Taiwan. Allowing encroachment by China into the area would endanger the peace and security of the entire Asia-Pacific region,” he says.

“China is trying to get rid of U.S. influence in the area,” Kitazawa says, “but we should never create a vacuum here. If all the Marines in Okinawa are transferred to Guam, we cannot defend those islands.” He was speaking in response to a Social Democratic Party idea for moving the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to Guam along with 8,000 other Marines included in a 2006 treaty between the U.S. and Japan.

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