About 9,000 U.S. Marines stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa will be moved to the U.S. territory of Guam and other locations in the Asia-Pacific, including Hawaii, under a U.S.-Japan agreement announced Thursday.
The move is intended to spread U.S. forces around the Asia-Pacific area as part of the Obama administration's renewed focus on the region after a decade of war in the Middle East. It's also intended to lessen the U.S. presence in Japan, something many Japanese have grown to find burdensome.
The whole dispute over the U.S. military presence on Okinawa has its roots in the 1995 kidnapping and rape of a schoolgirl by three American servicemen. Top U.S. government officials publicly apologized for the crime, but tensions continued to grow despite a strong desire by Tokyo and Washington to maintain their historically close military and political alliance.
The administration acknowledges that Japan is critical in maintaining peace in the region, as well as giving the U.S. a strategic placement if North Korea were to attack the South; the administration says that the new agreement with Japan would make their alliance more sustainable, while maintaining a strong presence in an increasingly insecure region.
A timeline for the removal of the Marines has not been made public.
Under the new agreement, about 10,000 Marines will remain in Okinawa.
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