View Full Version : Gregson: No plans to redeploy troops from Okinawa

07-17-03, 05:37 AM
July 16, 2003

Gregson: No plans to redeploy troops from Okinawa

By Kenji Hall
Associated Press

CAMP COURTNEY, Japan — The commander of Marines in Japan said Wednesday that U.S. forces were expanding their security role in Asia and would probably not see a reshuffle like that affecting the U.S. military in Europe.
Lt. Gen. Wallace C. Gregson said the U.S. military’s role in Asia is unique: It acts as a stabilizing presence in an area with no multilateral security treaties to keep the peace. In Europe, that role is filled, in part, by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In recent months, the U.S. has been stepping up its Asian presence by sending a larger number of troops to take part in operations and joint drills with forces from regional countries, especially since the September 2001 terror attacks and the bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali last October.

“I can’t speak for the parties in the Pentagon, but as I see it, Asia is fundamentally different from other parts of the world,” Gregson said during a changing-of-the-guard ceremony in which he handed over the Marine command on Okinawa to Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman, Jr.

Gregson had served for three years on Japan’s southernmost island.

U.S. officials say they are considering worldwide changes to troop deployments in an effort to make the military better able to counter terror attacks and other hard-to-predict threats.

In June, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz suggested the changes in Asia could mean smaller, more mobile forces for a region worried about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

While there have been no specific changes discussed for U.S. forces in Japan, Washington said last month it would dismantle its bases and withdraw American troops from positions they have occupied for decades near the tense Demilitarized Zone separating South Korea from communist North Korea. The troops will eventually be moved to “hub bases” farther south of the DMZ.

Gregson echoed remarks of other top U.S. officials who have said there are no plans to relocate troops stationed on Okinawa, which is situated 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo. He cited Okinawa’s strategic location in the Pacific as the reason it would remain a vital U.S. military outpost.

“We’re close to Hanoi and Hokkaido. We’re an hour and a half from Taipei. We’re a little bit over an hour and a half from here to Manila,” he said.

The United States is moving away from a Cold War focus on massive bases in Germany and western Europe, and instead establishing smaller bases in eastern and southern Europe, with potential host countries including Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.

But Gregson said that probably won’t be done in Asia.

“We still have the last remaining part of the Cold War here in this region — the division between North and South Korea,” Gregson said. “Lately the action of North Korea has become of great concern not only to Japan, but also to the United States and to other countries in the region.”

Nearly half of the 53,000 American military personnel in Japan are stationed on Okinawa, which accounts for less than 1 percent of the country’s land. About 19,000 Marines on Okinawa make up the largest Marine presence outside the United States.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.