February 07, 2012 09:46
Some U.S. marines stationed in Okinawa will likely move to South Korea under a plan whereby the U.S. redeploys some 3,300 of the 18,000 marines on the Japanese island to other countries on a rotating basis.
A South Korean government source said Monday the U.S. "has long wanted to redeploy some of its marines from Okinawa to Korea. Once Washington and Tokyo reach agreement on the status of the U.S. marines in Okinawa, the U.S. will consider redeploying some of them here."
Originally, the U.S. had planned to move 8,000 marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam, but under a recent tentative agreement with Tokyo it will send 4,700 to Guam and rotate 3,300 to other overseas bases, including Australia and the Philippines.
The U.S. has been trying to sound South Korea out since 2006 about sending some marines here.
The Lee Myung-bak administration is apparently worried about opposition from China and North Korea as well as from some South Koreans, even though it believes that the U.S. marines could play a positive role in an emergency.
Washington aims to cut defense spending by deploying marines abroad not on a permanent but on a rotating basis and letting them share their host country's bases. It also believes this will help reduce anti-American sentiment in the host country.
A foreign and security affairs expert said, "We need to overhaul our security policy keeping in mind that the U.S. will likely rotate troops every six months while leaving combat equipment behind in the host country."
The idea first surfaced when U.S. President Barak Obama visited Australia last November and pledged to deploy 2,500 U.S. marines to Darwin on a rotating basis. It is based on the new U.S. defense strategy that shifts its focus to Asia and makes it easier to mobilize troops.
This is not the first time the U.S. has deployed its troops in South Korea in rotation. The U.S. Air Force puts F-15 and F-16 fighters from Alaska or the mainland U.S. on a base in South Korea for several months so that their pilots can train for the environment on the Korean Peninsula.
The presence of U.S. Marines on the Korean Peninsula would work as a deterrent to North Korea, according to Michael Green, a former senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council. He said in a newspaper article last week that the importance of Marine Corps is rising in the process of the Pentagon's formulation of new strategies and that since the marines' amphibious operation is intrinsically an attack capability, this could deter North Korea.
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