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Members of the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment prepare to take off in an MV-22 Osprey at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2022.

Members of the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment prepare to take off in an MV-22 Osprey at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2022. (Brandon Aultman/U.S. Marine Corps)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Marine Corps plans a new quick-reaction force on Okinawa to counter Chinese maritime expansion in the region and aid in defending Japan’s remote southwestern islands, a Japanese newspaper reported Tuesday, citing unnamed U.S. and Japanese government sources.

The new Marine littoral regiment, typically about 2,000 Marines, could be established by 2025, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Tuesday. The unit will reportedly not add to the total number of Marines on Okinawa.

Around 18,000 Marines, sailors and their families already live on Okinawa, according to the Marine Corps Installations Pacific website.

The unit, if the plan moves forward, will be the second of three proposed for the Pacific, according to Yomiuri. The first, the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, was launched in Hawaii in March.

The littoral regiments are a key tenet of Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger’s Force Design 2030 modernization effort. They are designed to thwart long-range precision fires by moving quickly and stealthily over land and sea.

The new Okinawa-based littoral regiment is reportedly on the agenda for talks Wednesday in Washington, D.C., by the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee, or 2+2, according to Yomiuri. The committee is composed of Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi of Japan and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

The Japanese government is expected to agree to the plan, Yomiuri reported. It said Guam is reportedly being considered for the third planned littoral regiment.

The III Marine Expeditionary Force on Okinawa on Tuesday referred Stars and Stripes to the U.S. National Security Council for comment, “pending the conclusion of national-level leadership meetings and associated announcements,” spokesman 1st Lt. Zachary Voss said by email to Stars and Stripes. Voss said Marine Corps headquarters plans to make a statement following the meetings.

“We anticipate an opportunity to provide local comment in the coming week,” he said.

Japan’s Ministry of Defense did not respond to questions about the proposal emailed by Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.

Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, declined to comment when asked about the Tuesday report during a press conference at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo.

A spokesman from Okinawa prefecture’s base countermeasures department declined to comment by phone Tuesday, saying the department was not yet notified about a new Marine unit.

The Chinese military in recent years has increased its presence in the East and South China seas and stepped up exercises around Taiwan and Japan’s Nansei island chain, which stretches southwest from the main islands of Japan. China’s coast guard has confronted the Japan Coast Guard in the waters claimed by Japan around the Senkaku Islands northeast of Taiwan.

In response, Tokyo has increased defense spending to record levels, placed new bases on their remote islands and dispersed surface-to-air missile batteries.

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Keishi Koja is an Okinawa-based reporter/translator who joined Stars and Stripes in August 2022. He studied International Communication at the University of Okinawa and previously worked in education.
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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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