US, Japan poised to agree on shift of Marines in Okinawa

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. and Japanese national security officials are expected to agree changes to their joint defense posture this week as the two nations face mounting threats from North Korea and mounting attacks from China. ing.

U.S. officials said Secretary of State Anthony Brinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet with their Japanese counterparts on Wednesday to issue a joint statement coordinating, but not increasing, the U.S. military presence on the island of Okinawa. It also pays tribute to the creation of the Space Force and Space Command by the Department of Defense, adding a formal reference to space to the longstanding mutual defense treaty the two countries have signed.

The new deal, which will be signed at a so-called “two-plus-two” conference, comes on the eve of a visit to Washington by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to meet with President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday.

“Leaders will discuss a shared vision of a modernized alliance to meet the challenges of the Indo-Pacific and the world in the 21st century,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said on Tuesday. This is the topic of discussion with our Japanese allies at this week’s Advisory Meeting. ”

Ryder declined to provide details of the new contract.

But US officials said the 12th Marine Regiment, now in Okinawa, would be replaced by a smaller, more mobile unit, the 12th Marine Coastal Regiment. The new regiment is designed to enhance its capabilities and equipment to fight the enemy and protect the United States and its regional allies. US officials said the decision would not increase the number of Marines on the island.

For Okinawa, the site of one of the bloodiest ground battles at the end of World War II, military strength and military build-up are a sensitive issue. The island houses more than half of the U.S. troops stationed in Japan, and Okinawans hope that number will be reduced. Many islands are concerned that strengthening their defense capabilities may increase their risk of becoming involved in war.

The change is part of a broader shift taking place across the Marine Corps, with Commanding Officer General David Berger directing the service’s operations and operations in contested areas, particularly within enemy fire range. This factor is important in the Indo-Pacific, where thousands of US and allied forces are easily within range of both Chinese and North Korean missiles, or rockets.

Officials say one Marine Corps Coastal Regiment is already in Hawaii, a second is in Okinawa, and another is planned for late 2010, which could be on Guam. A. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans that have not been publicly announced.

Details are still being worked out, but the littoral regiment consists of about 2,000 Marines, including combat teams with anti-ship missile batteries, logistics battalions, and air defense battalions. The current Marine Regiment on Okinawa, which will effectively replace it, includes approximately 3,400 Marines and sailors. The total number of Marines on Okinawa will remain roughly the same, officials said.

Asked about specific announcements, Ryder simply said the talks would provide an opportunity to discuss ways to modernize the alliance and maintain a stable and secure Indo-Pacific.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters, Ryder also pointed to U.S. concerns over Chinese military activity in the region, including the recent incident in which Chinese fighter jets came dangerously close to U.S. Air Force aircraft in the South China Sea.

“Regarding China’s actions, it is concerning to see this kind of provocative action taking place in sensitive areas, as evidenced recently by China’s aerial interception,” Ryder said. “Again, our focus from the U.S. standpoint is to work with our regional allies and partners like Japan to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific and ensure security and stability throughout the region. It is to ensure that it continues to exist.”


Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.