TOKYO: The US will move 9,000 Marines out of Japan's southern Okinawa to Guam, Hawaii and other locations in the Asia-Pacific region, said a joint statement agreed by Tokyo and Washington Friday.
The redeployment will shift US troops to Guam, Hawaii and Australia regardless of any progress on the moving of an airbase on Okinawa that had originally been a key condition set by the US, reported Xinhua.
Japan and the US have long clashed over the issue of Okinawa where half of the 47,000 US service personnel in Japan are based. The whole dispute roots in the 1995 kidnapping and rape of a schoolgirl by three US servicemen in Okinawa. Though top US government officials publicly apologized for the crime, tensions continued to grow on the island.
In the joint statement, the two sides said they remained committed to the relocation of the Futenma base from its urban location now to a coastal place, a move that is broadly resisted in Okinawa.
The shift was widely regarded as a move by Washington to ease sometimes fractious relations with its ally over the huge US military presence.
Japan and the US said in the statement that the relocation plan was the only feasible solution "that has been identified to date".
The statement said the total cost of the relocation to Guam was expected to be $8.6 billion.
The accord was released just days ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's upcoming visit to Washington, who will meet US President Barack Obama Monday, during which security issues will be discussed as a top priority.