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US, Japan delink marines' move from Futenma base

Updated: 2012-02-09 05:58
( Xinhua)

WASHINGTON - The United States and Japan on Wednesday agreed to delink the move of 8,000 marines from the Futenma base relocation, making a move towards resolving the thorny issue in relations between the two countries.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said both sides have agreed to "delink the movement of Marines to Guam and resulting land returns south of (Kadena Air Base) from progress on the Futenma replacement facility."

"By doing this, we can work the details of and make progress on each effort separately, yet we remain fully and equally committed to both efforts," said Little.

US and Japanese officials began discussions Monday for the latest round of effort in the troop movement plan, and those discussions likely will continue for some time, Little said, adding the two countries are reviewing how to effectively work together to achieve the goals of the 2006 Realignment Roadmap and the 2009 Guam International Agreement.

According to the 2006 roadmap, the United States would relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, now in the center of Okinawa's Ginowan City, to a more remote area of the island. Futenma is about seven miles from Kadena Air Base. The Guam agreement provides for a further move of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to the Pacific island of Guam. The shift of US Marines to Guam had been linked to progress in relocating the Futenma base. Both agreements have been the subject of intense local and national political debate in Japan.

Little said the two troop movements are designed to ease the impact of the Marine presence on the Okinawan people; develop Guam as a strategic hub with an operational Marine Corps presence on Guam; and maintain a presence in the region that is geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable.

Little noted the Defense Department's new strategic guidance emphasizes the importance of the Asia-Pacific region, and the rebalancing of US defense priorities toward and within the region.