May 25, 2017
WASHINGTON- Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the US Marine Corps, said Wednesday the US forces are considering amendments to the current plan to transfer Marines from Okinawa Prefecture, southern Japan, to Guam.
"The situation strategically, operationally, as we've seen in the news recently, has changed," Neller said in testimony at a meeting of a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, alluding to perceived progress in nuclear and missile development by North Korea.
The capabilities of adversaries "have changed the dynamic," he said.
Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, "has looked at different options for where they (the US forces) might at least temporarily base aircraft because of the threat and the evolving threat," Neller also said.
The Marine transfer is part of a broader realignment plan for the US forces in Japan agreed between Japan and the United States in 2012-2013, under which the Marine Corps' Futenma air station will be relocated from a congested area in the Okinawa city of Ginowan to the Henoko coastal area in Nago, also Okinawa.
The plan also calls for returning to Japan military facilities and sites south of the US military's Kadena Air Base in Okinawa and transferring 9,000 US Marines and their families from the prefecture to the US Pacific territory of Guam by the early 2020s.
Neller stressed that he shares senators' concerns over the safety of US forces.
Explaining that the Marines have had discussions with the secretary of defense and the Joint Staff, Neller said, "We're at the very beginning of taking a look at this (the possible revision)."
"For the time being, we're committed to the plan," he said.
It is unclear whether the changes under consideration will be minor ones or significant enough to affect the Japan-US agreement.
Neller stressed the US military's intention to maintain the core parts of the bilateral agreement, including the Futenma relocation.
"We are going to reduce the number (of Marines) on Okinawa because that's a political imperative," Neller said."We build the Futenma replacement facility." (Jiji Press)
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