The United States and Japan have announced a new plan that will reduce the U.S. footprint on the island of Okinawa while ensuring an operationally effective U.S. force presence in the region, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said April 5.
The plan, released today in Tokyo, is a key step forward in implementing the 2006 Realignment Roadmap. It details every step needed for consolidating U.S. forces in Okinawa and gives conditions-based dates for the land returns.
When fully implemented, the plan will result in the return to Japan of about 2,500 acres of land now used by U.S. forces. The returns are essential steps in the realignment agreement, officials said, aiming to ensure a stable presence for U.S. forces in Japan.
“Our plan calls for the immediate return – upon the completion of certain necessary procedures – of certain facilities and areas on Okinawa,” Hagel said in a statement announcing the plan. “The United States will then return additional locations once replacement facilities are constructed, and when a sizeable contingent of U.S. Marine Corps forces relocate … outside Japan.” The Marines will move to Guam and Hawaii, he added.
The secretary thanked Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his personal leadership and attention to the plan, which required months of close coordination between senior leaders from the two countries and from U.S. Forces Japan and the Marine Corps.
The Defense Department and Japan’s Defense Ministry will work to implement the plan, Hagel said, in concert with working to resolve replacement facility issues to avoid the indefinite use of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma at Camp Schwab-Henoko Bay while maintaining alliance capabilities.
Progress last month on the replacement facility includes a landfill permit request filed by the Japanese government with the Okinawa prefectural government for the facility, and a Japanese contribution of $114.3 million to build facilities for U.S. Marine units relocating to Guam.
“Now more than ever, it is essential that the United States maintain a geographically distributed and sustainable force throughout Asia that can provide for the protection of Japan and our other allies, and U.S. interests,” Hagel said. “We are resolved to focus our bilateral efforts on modernizing the alliance to meet emerging security challenges in the region.”
Hagel said completion of the plan shows what can be achieved through hard work associated with the ongoing U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.
“I look forward to continuing to partner with Prime Minister Abe and his administration to advance the bilateral security relationship of the United States and Japan,” he added.