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U.S. Marines to bump up numbers on Okinawa

June 13, 2012 at 5:35 PM

CAMP FOSTER, Japan, June 13 (UPI) -- The number of U.S. Marines stationed at Okinawa, Japan, will jump to as many as 20,000, the most since 1989, before eventually dropping, an official said.

The news isn't sitting well with officials in Okinawa who have been trying to get the United States to reduce its presence on the island. U.S. and Japanese negotiators agreed in April to reduce to winnow the number of Marines on Okinawa to 10,000, though no timetable was set.

Stars and Stripes reported Okinawan officials apparently had not been told of the U.S. plans to put more Marines on the island.

"If the U.S. military is planning to increase the number of Marines on Okinawa to the fullest of the authorized number, it owes Okinawa a clear and proper explanation," said Susumu Matayoshi, director-general of the executive office of the Okinawa governor. "It is unacceptable if the increase is decided behind our back."

The number of Marines on the island has averaged 15,700 since the late 1990s and Okinawa last hosted 19,000-20,000 Marines in 1989 at the end of the Cold War, Stars and Stripes reported.

The number fell to about 15,000 by the end of the 1990s and was as low as 12,400 during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marines returning from Afghanistan and some of those on rotational deployments will add to the number of Marines on the island.

The number of Marines in Okinawa shifts without local input or explanation from the United States, Matayoshi said,

Okinawa residents have complained about the number of U.S. bases, noise from aircraft and occasional crimes committed by military personnel.

The planned increase in the number of Marines on Okinawa comes as the United States increases its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

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