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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 27) – The United States has reportedly told Japan it will move 8,000 Marines from the southern island of Okinawa to Guam – 1,000 more than planned.

The U.S. will also return three other military facilities in Okinawa in an effort to streamline Washington's military presence in Asia, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun said, citing unidentified sources.

Washington decided on the changes following a closer analysis of its military presence in the region, Japan's largest daily said.

United States defense officials were not available Sunday to confirm.

Japan hosts 50,000 U.S. troops, including 14,460 Marines, the largest Marine contingent based overseas. Nearly all the Marines are located on Okinawa, where local residents have long complained of crime, safety, and environmental hazards associated with U.S. bases.

The two sides in October agreed on a plan that would downsize the U.S. military presence in Japan and give Tokyo greater responsibility for security in the Asia-Pacific. Initially, about 7,000 troops were to be transferred from Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam.

The U.S. government recently told Japan it now plans to move about 8,000 Marines from the island to Guam, the Yomiuri said.

Washington will also return to Japan three military facilities on the south of the island -- the U.S. military port at Naha, the Camp Kinser logistics site, and the mainly residential Camp Lester – bringing their operations to other bases, Yomiuri said.

Japan has been keen for the transfer to begin as soon as possible, but the United States has said the plan would take decades unless Tokyo picks up much of the about US$8 billion price tag.

Adding another 1,000 Marines on Guam is like doubling the village population of Agana Heights, based on population figures from the 2000 Census.

To accommodate the swelling number of Marines and their families to Guam, residents and businesses are preparing for hundreds of millions of dollars in anticipated construction activity, as well as for more jobs related to servicing the military.

Outside contractors and workers would double the annual construction capacity on Guam to US$800 million, an earlier report from The Associated Press stated, based on a Marine Corps US$5.6 billion estimate.

Although the military is constructing and renovating living space for many of their personnel, Liz Duenas, associate broker at ReMax Diamond Reality, said there are many families who choose to live outside the base.

The growing number of Marines moving to Guam is expected to increase the price of real estate and homes, if it hasn't already, she said. The simple dynamics of supply and demand dictates that the more people looking for homes, the higher the prices will be.

She said that there are ongoing housing development projects that will help handle the large influx of people. But infrastructure improvements must be made to handle the additional people, Duenas said.

February 27, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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