U.S. Could Move Marines Off Okinawa Before Base Closure

Posted February 8th, 2012 at 10:55 am (UTC-5)
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Japanese and U.S. officials say thousands of U.S. Marines could be moved from Japan's Okinawa island before the closure of a controversial U.S. base there.

The agreement was announced Tuesday after talks between U.S. and Japanese officials in Washington. The United States may now move forward with plans to relocate thousands of troops on Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam. A final decision on closing the Futenma air base, also on Okinawa, remains unresolved.

A joint statement said both countries remain fully committed to replacing the Futenma facility and the relocation of its air base to Camp Schwab, which is also on Okinawa. The two countries agreed in 2006 to move 8,000 Marines to Guam and relocate the base.

Futenma is located in a congested urban area of Okinawa and is unpopular with residents because of the added stress it puts on local infrastructure.

But plans to build a replacement base for the Marines in a less congested coastal area have met with strong resistance from environmentalists and other groups.

The U.S. has some 47,000 troops in Japan, mostly on Okinawa. Many islanders oppose the presence of the U.S. bases altogether, saying they create noise, pollution and crime. Former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama was forced to resign in 2010 after failing to fulfill a campaign promise to get the U.S. bases moved off the island.