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Japan to nix Marines relocation to Iwakuni

Date Posted: 2012-02-15

U.S. Marines may be leaving Okinawa, but it now appears they will not be heading toward Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

The Japanese government has decided to reject a U.S. proposal to move some Marines from Okinawa to a U.S. base in Iwakuni. At a meeting with Yamaguchi Governor Sekinari Nii and Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba has offered assurances the government will not ask the local community in the western Japan city to accept the ‘additional transfer’ of U.S. forces.

Genba made the remark after the governor and the mayor expressed strong opposition to the proposed Marine transfer to Iwakuni, which is set to newly host carrier-based planes from a U.S. Naval base in Atsugi, south of Tokyo, under the 2006 agreement on a roadmap for the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka has also told Nii and Fukuda that the government is not considering the proposal at all.

The government seems concerned that transferring the Marines despite opposition from local communities could affect the transfer of the aircraft to Iwakuni.

Genba expressed his strong willingness to push forward the aircraft transfer plan, saying it is ‘an integral part of the U.S. military realignment.’ He then called for the local leaders' cooperation with the Defense Ministry in acquiring a land site in the city to construct housing for U.S. soldiers. Nii told reporters after the meeting that he will keep withholding an answer until the two countries officially abandon the transfer of Marines to Iwakuni. A planned land sale to accommodate construction of new housing for American military families has already been shelved.

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