The U.S. Marines deployed in Japan play a critical role. Of course, the contributions to peace and stability made by the members of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force stationed here are also significant, but the Marine Corps deserves special mention partly because the service has a unique amphibious mission best suited for the western Pacific. More importantly, it is because the Marines, in the middle of a historic organizational transformation, seem to be finding new missions at sea.

Critics have often claimed that the Marines based in Okinawa are not there for the defense of Japan. In fact, over the past three decades, the Marines were at times absent in Japan when they were deployed elsewhere, in particular to the Middle East. Those days, however, seem to be over. The Marines are returning to the waters in this part of the world.

This conclusion is based on the March 5 congressional testimony by U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger on the fiscal 2021 budget before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He talked about modernizing the U.S. Marine Corps for the era of great power competition.