US, Japan announce military base deal
The United States and Japan have annouced a deal to shift 9,000 Marines from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam, Australia and Hawaii.
The redeployment will go ahead regardless of any progress on the proposed move of a busy airbase on Okinawa that had originally been a key plank of a deal with the US.
In a joint statement issued in Washington and Tokyo, the two sides said they remained committed to the relocation of the Futenma base from its present urban location to a coastal spot - a move that is heavily resisted in Okinawa.
The two governments "reconfirmed their view that (this) remains the only viable solution that has been identified to date", the statement said.
No definite timeframe was put on the redeployment, with the statement saying only that the "relocations are to be completed as soon as possible while ensuring operational capability throughout the process".
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said the agreement was necessary to reflect an evolving regional reality.
"Changes in the security environment will not wait for us," he said.
"Japan and the United States have to assume our responsibility and do our part and implement the plans in a speedy manner".
"The (base-move) problem brought everything to a halt. We must make progress where we can."
The deal comes just ahead of a visit to Washington by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who will meet with President Barack Obama on Monday for what both sides hope will be a demonstration that the alliance is back on track.
Japan and the United States have long clashed over Okinawa, the site of sporadic tensions with US troops. Around half of the 47,000 US service personnel in Japan are based on the strategically located island, which is nearer to Taiwan than it is to Tokyo.
Friction over US bases intensified after the 1995 gang rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by U.S. servicemen. The case sparked widespread protests by Okinawans, who had long resented the American presence due to crime, noise and deadly accidents.