The oft-cited reason why the U.S. Marines are stationed in Okinawa is its superior strategic location; that is, from Okinawa they can deal with any contingencies as quickly as possible that may occur in any part of the region.
But in a contingency involving China or North Korea, Sasebo in Nagasaki Prefecture would serve much better. Sasebo is much closer to Beijing, Shanghai and Pyongyang than Okinawa. Or if skirmishes ever occur in the Senkaku waters, the Self-Defense Forces would have primary responsibility, not the U.S. Marines (“Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation 2015” ).
Thus, it turns out that the “superior strategic location” argument doesn’t hold water at all.
Furthermore, if the marines are in Okinawa to deal with such contingencies quickly, why are 8,000 of them, including the 4,900 most active elements, scheduled to move to Guam, leaving only support units behind in Okinawa? That this is possible means the marines are stationed here not because Okinawa has a superior strategic location but simply because the bases in Okinawa are as cozy as can be.
Meanwhile, Washington will keep drumming up its worn-out mantra that the U.S. military presence is for the defense of Japan and is of the utmost necessity in the face of an assertive China. As a result, Tokyo will provide lavish host-nation support (an annual $1.56 billion) and make the bases the most cost-effective for the U.S. coffers and troop conditions the most comfortable ever.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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