New Marine-like GSDF unit considered for deployment to Okinawa after U.S. Marines’ relocation

New Marine-like GSDF unit considered for deployment to Okinawa after U.S. Marines’ relocation

GSDF members participating in U.S.-Japan joint training in March 2008 on Camp Hansen in Kin Town, Okinawa.


November 1, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo


It came to light on October 31 that the Ministry of Defense (MOD) and Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are considering Camp Hansen in Okinawa as a potential place to deploy the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB), a unit of the Ground Self-Defense Forces (GSDF) that will be established in March next year.

Several people involved in the process disclosed this information.

About 8,000 Marines currently stationed in Okinawa are to be relocated to Guam and elsewhere outside Japan during the first half of the 2020s.

It appears this relocation will be incorporated in the upcoming period of the Mid-Term Defense Program (MTDP).

If Self-Defense Forces are deployed to Camp Hansen, the relocation of Marines will be a reduction of Okinawa’s base burden in name only.

It is inevitable that local residents, who have not agreed to this plan, will oppose it.


According to an MOD official, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense said in their joint statement concerning the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (2+2) that they have reaffirmed that the SDF posture would be strengthened to promote joint use of bases especially in Japan’s southwestern islands.

The ministers also said that there have been discussions concerning joint use of U.S. bases in Okinawa such as Camp Hansen.

The U.S.-Japan Roadmap for Realignment Implementation agreed upon by the U.S. and Japanese governments in May 2006 states: “Camp Hansen will be used for Ground SDF training.”

Already the number of drills conducted by the SDF is increasing, but Marines stationed in Okinawa moving outside Japan will free up base capacity to conduct operations.

For that reason, it seems plausible that SDF use of U.S. facilities may increase.

The ARDB has been referred to as Japan’s version of the Marine Corps.

It is being formed for the purpose of island recapture operations, among other functions, in light of tensions over the Senkaku Islands.

It has been determined that Osprey aircraft will be introduced into the ARDB, and training could be conducted on remote islands in Okinawa.

Next year in March about 2,100 people will form two regiments of the ARDB, which will be deployed to GSDF Camp Ainoura in Nagasaki Prefecture.

The initial plan was for approximately 3,000 people to form three regiments, but deploying the remaining regiment to Camp Hansen is still under consideration.

Aside from the MOD being undecided on whether or not to form a third regiment, another part of the U.S.-Japan Roadmap remains uncertain.

An MOD official voiced concern over work related to relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, such as the construction of a replacement facility in Henoko, Nago City.

The official said it might be difficult to accomplish, due to local citizens’ sentiments opposing U.S. base construction.


(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)


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