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Locate Marines elsewhere in Japan, US suggests as local governments balk

The Yomiuri Shimbun –

TOKYO — The U.S. government has sounded out the Japanese government on a plan to transfer about 1,300 Marines based in Okinawa Prefecture to another location within the country if they cannot be relocated to a base in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, according to Japanese government officials.

However, Tokyo told Washington it would be difficult to relocate the Marines to any other domestic location due to strong opposition from local governments.

The move came as Japan refused to accept a U.S. proposal to transfer the Marines to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Iwakuni Air Station as part of a review of the 2006 bilateral agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, the sources said.

The 1,300 Marines are among 8,000 originally scheduled to be transferred to Guam under the 2006 accord.

When Japan refused the proposal to transfer the Marines to Iwakuni in recent bilateral talks to review the U.S. forces’ realignment, Washington reportedly brought up the new plan, the officials said.

The 1,300 Marines belong to the U.S. Marine Corps’ 1st Marine Aircraft Wing headquarters in Okinawa Prefecture, which commands helicopter units at Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, and aircraft units at the Iwakuni base.

As possible relocation sites, the United States apparently has in mind Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture, Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, Atsugi Air Base in Kanagawa Prefecture and Camp Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, the sources said.

In previous negotiations, the United States called on Japan to pick a base within the country where the headquarters could be transferred if its relocation to Iwakuni were problematic.

But Japan objected, saying the United States should increase the number of Marines to be transferred to Guam or Hawaii.

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