Japan, US Secretly Agreed in 2015 to Deploy Amphibious Unit to Okinawa, Reports Suggest

© AFP 2022 / TORU YAMANAKA US helicopters and planes parked at Futenma US Marine Base in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture (File)
 US helicopters and planes parked at Futenma US Marine Base in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture (File) - Sputnik International
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Japan and the United States made a behind-the-scenes agreement in 2015 to deploy an amphibious unit of the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF) in the Okinawa prefecture, without proper civilian oversight on the Japanese side, the Kyodo news agency reported Monday, citing government sources.

According to the news outlet, the deal, which was struck between then-chief of the GSDF, Gen. Kiyofumi Iwata, and Lt. Gen. Lawrence, a commander of the US forces in Okinawa at the time, meant stationing a regiment of the GSDF Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade at the US Marines' Camp Schwab in the prefecture's in the Henoko district. The deal, however, came without approval from the non-uniform officials at the Japanese Defence Ministry, prompting criticism about the disregard for civilian control.

 U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors, right, and two F-15 Eagles prepare for take-off at Kadena Air Base on the southern island of Okinawa, in Japan (File) - Sputnik International
Japanese Prime Minister Calls for Early Transfer of US Base in Okinawa

The plan was later put on hold over disagreements with the prefecture's government and Tokyo over the relocation of the Marines' Air Station Futenma from the densely populated area in the city of Ginowan to Henoko.

Nevertheless, the GSDF is said to have remained committed to the idea in light of the tension with Beijing surrounding the disputed Senkaku Islands, known in China as the Diaoyudao islands, according to the sources.

Earlier in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference that the defense ministry was reviewing its options concerning where to place the regiment and that no decision had been made to deploy it to Camp Schwab.

Despite being just 0.6 percent of Japan's territory, Okinawa hosts most of the US forces and military installations in the country. Per the prefecture's data, some 25,800 US servicemen, as well as 19,000 of their family members and civilians, reside there.

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