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Reports say Marine move may even pick up speed

By Florence Stair

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 6, 2012) – Within a few days of a Bloomberg news report saying the Obama administration was considering reducing the number of Marines being relocated to Guam by about half, another news agency reported out of Washington that Japan and the United Stated both denied the Bloomberg article.

The United States and Japan both are committed to moving the same number that has been discussed for years -- 8,000 Marines -- from Okinawa to Guam, according Reuters news agency, quoting Pentagon officials.

Not only is the Guam move likely to stay intact, it also could speed up, according to wire reports.

Japan Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said in Tokyo Friday that the United States and Japan are in discussions to speed up the move of Marines to Guam.

"We are in talks with the U.S. side, with flexibility in our mind, to seek ways to advance the relocation of Futenma airbase and the shift of Okinawa-based Marines to Guam, while upholding the policy of reducing the burden on Okinawa in a timely manner," Reuters quoted the Japan foreign minister as saying.

In Washington, Reuters reported that Pentagon spokeswoman Leslie Hull-Ryde issued a statement that "no decisions have been made with regard to possible adjustments to the Guam relocation plan."

The Pentagon spokeswoman said in the Reuters report the United States is committed to establishing a Marine Corps presence on Guam.

The Yomiuri Shinbun also reported that Japan and the United States are discussing moving U.S. Marines from Okinawa ahead of the resolution of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station issue.

"This is a good thing for Guam," Sen. Judith Guthertz, chairwoman of the Legislature's committee on the buildup, said yesterday.

In addition to the surge of Marines, it also means that contractors will build facilities before the Marines move to Guam, Guthertz said, resulting in an "economic shot in the arm" for Guam.

Mark G. Calvo, director of the Military Buildup Office at Adelup, said the administration hasn't received official notice on whether the transfer of Marines from Okinawa to Guam will no longer be tied to the Futenma relocation.

"That would be one less contingency that we have to worry about," Calvo said.

As for Futenma Air Station, the two countries agreed in 2006 to move the U.S. Marines' Futenma airbase in Okinawa to a less crowded area on Okinawa.

But successive Japanese leaders have yet to win support for the 2006 Realignment Roadmap from Okinawa residents, who want all U.S. troops pulled out of Okinawa. The Japanese foreign minister estimated about 18,000 Marines are in Okinawa.

Calvo said the Futenma relocation is expected to take a minimum of four to six months for the Okinawa government to give a go-ahead.

"If it is true that we're not tied to Futenma, then that could speed up the buildup's progress on Guam," he said.

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