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U.S. floats plan to move Marine forces off Okinawa

Date Posted: 2004-06-10

An American plan to shift some 5,500 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido is raising some eyebrows this week.

The proposal calls for moving a squadron from Camp Hansen to a Ground Self Defense Force training range in Hokkaido. The U.S. officials describe the move as part of a planned U.S. global military transformation.

The governor of Hokkaido says “we don’t want the troops.”

Officially, the plan is not an official policy change, but it has been in discussion stage since last fall, and involved both foreign ministry and defense agency personnel. The Japanese government says “this is not an official suggestion yet. We know that Okinawa has too many bases, but if we make a base in Hokkaido, it going to cost too much for us, and a new base I’m sure will make Hokkaido people very upset.”

Reports indicate the 3rdMarine Division’s 12th Marine Regiment would be tapped to move to Yausubetsu Training Range in eastern Hokkaido. The range has been used by the U.S. since1997, following an agreement to relocate live fire exercises from Okinawa. Marines are scheduled to use the facility beginning late next month, where they can fire shells traveling up to 18 kilometers.

Marines say the plan is sound, as it would allow the U.S. and Japanese Self Defense Forces to train together.

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