New Marine Corps commander says Guam transfer plan ‘progressing well’ but questions remain

Gen. David Berger is the new commander of the U.S. Marine Corps. (USMC photo)

The new commander of the U.S. Marine Corps said Wednesday that the transfer plan of its personnel from Japan’s Okinawa to Guam is “progressing very well.”

But Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger “refrained from expressing a clear view on whether the Guam move will be affected by a plan to relocate an airbase in a crowded residential area in Ginowan to a less densely populated coastal area in Nago within Okinawa Prefecture.”

Berger, who assumed the top post in July, said during a media roundtable in Tokyo, that the transfer of the Marines to Guam and the relocation of the Futenma airbase within the southern island prefecture are “different but related issues,” Kyodo reported.

The Kyodo report also cited Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s statement last October that the projects are “consequently linked,” suggesting that the United States would not proceed with the Guam relocation unless the Futenma base transfer is realized.

According to Kyodo, Berger did not deny media reports that the planned Marines’ transfer, based on a 2006 Japan-U.S. agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces, may start as early as October 2024.

But Kyodo quoted Berger as saying that there are “too many variables” to “tell the exact timeline.”

The force realignment plan revised by Japan and the United States in 2012 stipulates that approximately 9,000 of the about 19,000 Marines in Okinawa will be relocated outside Japan, to such places as Guam and Hawaii.