The United States will set up a rapid reaction unit of the Marine Corps in Okinawa Prefecture for the defense of remote islands in southwestern Japan, Japanese and U.S. diplomatic sources have said.

A Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR) will be established within a few years as part of a realignment of the Marine Corps in the prefecture, the sources said Monday, amid China's intensifying military activities in the East China Sea.

The United States wants to have the Okinawa MLR ready by 2026, arming them with missiles and lighter gear, the Yomiuri Shimbun also reported.