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South Pacific islands want a piece of Marines action

Date Posted: 2006-03-03

Watch out, Guam!

The Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic Palau want a share of the growth, and money, to be realized by moving US Marines from Okinawa. Present plans call for 6,000 Marines to shift from Okinawa to Guam in the next several years. Marine Corps studies began planning for the move a couple years ago, and are preparing to move into environmental impact statement phase. The Marines are to begin moving in 2008, or possibly earlier.

Governor Benigno R. Fitial wants to see some of those troops come to his islands. Tinian is one island cited specifically as a potential new home for Marines. The governor met last month with Rear Admiral Charles Joe Leidig, the U.S. Pacific Command representative to the CNMI, Guam, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau. Leidig is also commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas and Navy Region Marianas.

“We aren’t ready to talk about it yet,” says Governor Fitial, while at the same time saying he’s optimistic he’ll be able to convince officials to move Marines to the Northern Marianas. The current plan calls only for constructing training facilities in the Northern Marianas, and not basing troops there.

The entire Marine move from Okinawa is expected to cost $6 billion, causing a large construction boom for Guam and regional contractors.

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