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Washington gives up plan for basing Marines at Iwakuni

Date Posted: 2012-03-21

Washington’s tossed in the towel and surrendered on the idea of moving U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Iwakuni in mainland Japan after negotiations in the nation’s capitol broke down because of Japanese opposition.

The U.S. broached the concept during bilateral talks conducted at the vice ministerial level in Washington while discussing realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan. Japan rejected the idea because of opposition from Iwakuni and Yamaguchi Prefecture officials.

Iwakuni officials are reeling at negative reaction from residents, who oppose having more Marines at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station. They are voicing hopes the city will take steps to block infusion of more troops. The 2006 agreement between Japan and the U.S. already includes plans for Iwakuni to absorb fighter jets from a U.S. aircraft carrier now based at the Navy’s Atsugi station in Kanagawa Prefecture. To insure the two governments understand their opposition, Iwakuni municipal government and Yamaguchi Prefecture government have told Japan they’ll freeze a land sale that is now in the works to create more U.S. military family housing near the base.

The realignment review is heading toward an interim report coming in May. Key to that report will be formulating details on how to deal with U.S. military units in Okinawa. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is planning a visit to the U.S. to participate in discussions during the Golden Week holidays in early May.

The United States position is that the Marines should now remain in Okinawa. Concurrence on the American plan would boost the number of Marines on Okinawa higher than the number agreed to in 2006.

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