U.S. to remove 9,000 Marines from Okinawa

April 27, 2012 at 7:29 AM
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TOKYO, April 27 (UPI) -- The United States and Japan agreed on reducing the number of U.S. Marines on Okinawa by about 9,000 and the return of land to the government, officials said.

The accord was presented Thursday by senior U.S. officials as a win for both sides because it removes a source of tension concerning the location of a Marine station and allows the Pentagon to use some of the forces elsewhere in the Pacific region, The New York Times reported.

The plan calls for the Marine force to be reduced by about 9,000, leaving about 10,000 Marines on Okinawa. About 5,000 of the departing military personnel would travel to Guam and another group would be redeployed to Hawaii, officials said.

No schedule for the redeployment was announced.

Kadena Air Base, the largest U.S. airfield in the region, will remain on Okinawa.

Agreement on the reduction in force was made possible by negotiating the issue separately from Japan's demand that the United States relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from an urban area to Camp Schwab, a less-populated spot on northern Okinawa, the Times said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba said Friday the agreement was "a forward-looking and concrete one that prioritizes reducing the burden on Okinawa, including the return of land."

A senior State Department official said the agreement was "a resounding victory for our bilateral alliance."

U.S. officials told the Times the Obama administration consulted with congressional members. As the agreement neared completion this week, three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to voice what they called "serious questions that have not been fully addressed."

Late Thursday, the senators said in a statement they still had concerns about specifics, but pledge to work to seek "a mutually beneficial, militarily effective and fiscally sustainable agreement regarding the realignment of U.S. forces on Okinawa and Guam."

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