US to remove 9,000 Marines from Okinawa
WASHINGTON - The Associated PressAbout 9,000 U.S. Marines stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa will be moved to the U.S. territory of Guam and other locations in the Asia-Pacific, including Hawaii, under a U.S.-Japan agreement announced on April 27.
The move is part of a broader arrangement designed to tamp down tensions in the U.S.-Japan defense alliance stemming in part from opposition in Okinawa to what many view as a burdensome U.S. military presence. It also reflects a desire by the Obama administration to spread U.S. forces more widely in the Asia-Pacific region as part of a rebalancing of U.S. defense priorities in the aftermath of a decade of war in the greater Middle East.
Under the new agreement, about 10,000 Marines will remain on Okinawa, which has been a key element of the U.S. military presence in Asia for decades. The U.S. also has a substantial Air Force presence on Okinawa. “I think we have made some progress and this plan offers specific and forward-looking action,” said Japan’s Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, who added that Japan wanted to “reduce the burden on Okinawa.”
The whole dispute over the U.S. military presence on Okinawa has its roots in the 1995 kidnapping and rape of a schoolgirl by three American servicemen. Top U.S. government officials publicly apologized for the crime, but tensions continued to grow despite a strong desire by Tokyo and Washington to maintain their historically close military and political alliance.