The United States has announced its intention to pull 9,000 marines out of Japan's southern Okinawa and redeploy them to other locations in the Asia-Pacific region.
The withdrawal was outlined in a joint statement issued on Thursday night by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and their Japanese counterparts.
Citing an "increasingly uncertain security environment" in the Asia-Pacific region they said their agreement was intended to maintain a robust US military presence to defend Japan.
The joint statement made no mention of a timetable for moving the approximately 9,000 marines off of Okinawa. It said it would happen "when appropriate facilities are available to receive them" on Guam in Hawaii and elsewhere.
Under the new agreement about 10,000 marines will remain on Okinawa, which has been a key element of the US military presence in Asia for decades. The US also has a substantial air force presence on Okinawa.
The withdrawal appears designed to appease Okinawan residents who have been calling for the closure of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on the island.
That issue remains unresolved. The US continues to insist that Japan find a Futenma replacement on Okinawa.
Okinawa locals say that the US military presence causes congestion, leads to military-related crime and increases the possibility of civilians who live near the facilities being injured in accidents such as helicopter or aircraft crashes.
The whole dispute over the US military presence on Okinawa has its roots in the 1995 kidnapping and rape of a schoolgirl by three US servicemen.
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