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Navy halts Guam construction efforts tied to move of Okinawa Marines

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 12, 2012

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – The Navy has dropped efforts to contract for more than $3 billion in construction projects connected to the planned U.S. military build-up on Guam following a spending freeze imposed by Congress, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific announced Saturday.

The U.S. military construction work is being funded by Japan and includes a wide variety of development projects — including a hospital, offices and housing — that are meant to support thousands of Okinawa-based Marines and visiting aircraft carriers that are expected to arrive on the territory in coming years.

But Congress passed a defense bill this year that blocks spending on the Guam military build-up until an independent study can explore cheaper alternatives and military leaders provide a master plan for realigning forces in the Pacific region.

Japan has already deposited about $700 million into the U.S. treasury to fund the effort on Guam, which is part of a 2006 agreement with the U.S. to reduce the large Marine Corps presence that has remained on the southern island of Okinawa since the end of World War II. In all, Japan agreed to contribute about $6 billion and the U.S. planned to spend about $4 billion on the relocation.

The two countries are now renegotiating that agreement, which might include cutting the number of Marines slated to be relocated to the U.S. territory to 4,700, or about one-half the number included in the original deal.

The U.S. also has indicated in recent days that it wants Japan to pay more for the relocation of Marine Corps forces back to American soil and might want to relocate more than 1,000 of the Okinawa-based Marines elsewhere inside Japan, according to media reports.

Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepare to board the USS Germantown, on Feb. 2, 2012, for a routine patrol of the Asia-Pacific region at U.S. Naval Facility White Beach, Okinawa. The U.S. and Japan are continuing with plans to relocate Marines to Guam.
MATT ORR/STARS AND STRIPES

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