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U.S. to expand marine bases in W. Pacific

Date Posted: 2012-03-30

The Marines’ Air-Ground Task Force is being diversified as a part of the American forces realignment in Japan, stationing combat Marines at three separate locations.

The MAGTF, a basic Marine Corps component geared to a high level of readiness for emergencies is to be deployed not only to Okinawa, but to Darwin, Australia and Guam. The realignment of U.S. Forces Japan puts the MAGTF command center, ground combat elements, air combat units and logistical support under a single banner. The United States has made the realignment proposal to the Japanese government, and is awaiting a ‘move forward’ signal.

The realignment comes as efforts are made to boost deterrent strength by beefing up its bases in Asia, particularly near China, which is now increasing its own maritime presence in the East China Sea and South China Sea. Okinawa’s Marine Corps presence is now in the form of the III Marine Expeditionary Force with its 18,000~21,000 personnel. Already, III MEF is the largest MAGTF outside the continental United States.

A U.S.~ Japan agreement inked in 2006 called for moving 8,000 Marines to Guam, with the other 10,000+ remaining on Okinawa. With the latest realignment, plans call for shifting 4,700 Marines to Guam, another 2,500 to Australia, and still others back to the United States, including Hawaii. The realignment, if completed as planned, would leave roughly 10,000 Marines on Okinawa..

Under a 2006 Japan-U.S. agreement, 8,000 members of the force's command and logistic units would be moved to Guam, while the remaining 10,000 personnel, mostly from combat units, would remain in Okinawa Prefecture.

The latest reports filtering from talks between the U.S. and Tokyo are at conflict with earlier reports in some respects. Although word earlier was that the Marines heading to Guam would be on unit deployments, the latest plan has unit deployments in effect for Okinawa and Australia, leaving the contingent on Guam being permanently assigned.

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