CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The top commander of U.S. forces on Okinawa doesn’t want to consider drastically reducing the number of Marines on Okinawa because of the island’s “unique strategic location,” stated a Kyodo News report confirmed by Marine officials.
The commander of Marine Forces Japan, Lt. Gen. Robert Blackman, wouldn’t comment on U.S.-Japanese negotiations about realigning U.S. troops on Okinawa, according to the report. But he did say the U.S. forces there can have a significant impact on the western Pacific region by acting as a deterrent, in part because of troop strength but also because of the Marines’ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance abilities, and their ability to move forces quickly.
He stressed the importance of training on Okinawa to prepare for possible future attacks by North Korea, according to the Kyodo News report. From a strategic perspective, he said, Marines must be trained on the ground, at sea and in the air.
Blackman also told Kyodo News that removing helicopters from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa wouldn’t work. “Relocating these helicopters any distance from the infantry and logistics would seriously reduce our capabilities,” he said.
In 1996, the United States agreed to vacate MCAS Futenma in the future, provided the base remains on Okinawa. In 1999, the Japanese government decided the air station would be moved to a military/civilian airport to be built on the ocean off Nago.