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Top Marine in Pacific says the Okinawa Marines 'not burden'

Date Posted: 2010-02-25

The senior U.S. Marine in the Pacific says Marines based on Okinawa are not a burden to local citizens.

Lt. Gen. Keith Stalder, the commander of the Marine Corps Forces Pacific, maintains the Marines are good for Okinawa. “I’m frequently concerned when I hear the word burden used as a description,” he says. “I suggest that it is n obligation under the alliance to do the hosting and basing of U.S. forces, and for that, the government of Japan gets the services of one of the best and biggest militaries in the world.”

He says that rather that considering his Marines to be burdens, they should be considered benefits. Stalder points out troops on Okinawa are continuing to serve as a key deterrent and stabilizing role, which requires they remain close to potential trouble spots such as Taiwan and North Korea. “You’ve got to have forward-deployed ground forces,” he says.

“In our case, that happens to be the Marines. Okinawa, if you look at the map, is strategically in maybe the perfect place in the region,” the three-star general points out. “From there, you deter a lot of potentially bad events, and you can get everywhere you need to get to very quickly.” Moving Marines away from the island prefecture would impede the military’s ability for responding to crises because Marines would be forced to deploy from far away Hawaii or the U.S. west coast.

“Days lost truly equate to lost lives,” the general notes. “If you try to deploy from farther away, people will die because it took so long to get there.” He adds “I want to make this cler: all of the Marines, all of my Marines on Okinawa, are willing to die if necessary, for the security of Japan. That is our role in the alliance.” Stalder explained Japan doesn’t have any reciprocal obligation to defend American soil, but that it must provide appropriate bases and training for troops here.

Stalder, speaking in conjunction ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Japan-U.S. security treaty, says the current Japanese government administration’s decisions on Futenma relocation have strained relations. “Potential enemies of Japan and the U.S. are watching, because if we are weakened today, perhaps it can be weakened further tomorrow. He says hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved in the last half-century by having U.S. bases in Japan. “Okinawa is in the center of an earthquake-cyclone region, and there’s probably nowhere better in the world from which to dispatch marines to natural disasters. Hours matter during such tragedies, and time saved means lives spared in the aftermath of these terrible events.

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