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Okinawa troops shift to start beginning 2008

Date Posted: 2004-08-27

A Pentagon plan to realign U.S. forces in north Asia will move troops from Okinawa to mainland Japan and other locations in the region, including Korea.

The plan, announced jointly by American and Japanese sources earlier this week, indicated some 2,600 Marines will be moved off Okinawa in efforts to reduce the burden on the local communities. The realignment is not a paperwork exercise in the intervening years though.

Sources Monday said 2,190 3rd Marine Division troops now stationed on Okinawa will be shifted to South Korea, the Philippines and other places in Asia. Earlier discussions had suggested moving the Marines from Okinawa to Camp Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, and Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture, but reaction from local leaders there appeared to have stymied the idea. It is unclear exactly how the new proposals fit into the earlier announced plans.

The American government revealed its two-stage plan, which expedites the scope and scale of training within the Asia Pacific region. It has asked the Japanese government to assist in the realignment project by providing a high speed vessel capable of traveling more than 50 kilometers per hour to transport Marines to trouble spots. The U.S.military currently has one high speed vessel, the Westpac Express, based at Naha Military Port to provide this capability.

The American side is also asking Japan to obtain ports and airports for use by U.S. forces as Okinawa drawdowns begin, and asks that they share the costs of developing family welfare and recreation facilities for U.S. troops and their family members at the new locations.

Sources are telling the media that the U.S. wants to attach the Marines to the Okinawa-based III Marine Expeditionary Force, regardless of where they are based. These would include a new 1,000-man battalion at a training site to be built in northern Korea, where U.S. Army troops are being shifted south and to Iraq, and sending 1,190 personnel to a long-term assignment in southeast Asia, including the Philippines.

One planning document indicated 800 military personnel moving would come from the 12th Marine Regiment artillery unit, 900 members from the 4th Marine Regiment infantry battalion, 700 members from transport and supply units, and 200 support personnel.

The troop disbursement plan would reduce the military forces on Okinawa by 4,790 Marines, roughly 27% of the current Marine Corps population.

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