(PresidentialHill.com)- The United States and Japan are planning to restructure the US Marine force stationed in Okinawa, increasing their firepower so they can respond more quickly if China attacks Taiwan, the Washington Post reported last week.
Citing two officials familiar with the matter, the Post reported that the new strategy will arm the roughly 18,000 Marines deployed to Okinawa with missiles capable of reaching the Chinese mainland and increase the maneuverability should they be called upon to defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion.
According to the officials, the restructuring “isn’t just about the bodies” but also the capabilities to allow the Marines to “move quicker” with “more firepower.”
The United States wants to diversify the ways its forces can target China by mixing and matching how ground, air, and sea-based weapons attack the enemy’s assets, the official told the Post. As part of that plan, the US military will equip Marines with ground-launched anti-ship missiles.
Training stations and possibly field defense equipment will also be erected in remote islands southwest of Okinawa over the next few years to allow the Marines to deploy at a moment’s notice to bases already prepared to support defensive operations, the officials told the Post.
One group of islands under consideration is the Ryukyus islands about 100 miles from Taiwan, the same distance between Taiwan and mainland China.
According to Reuters, an overhauled regiment of 2,000 Marines will also focus on advanced intelligence-gathering and transportation.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin formally announced the changes at a joint press conference with his Japanese counterpart Hamada Yasukaza on Wednesday during the Security Consultative Talks in Washington.
According to the Washington Post, discussions among senior US officials on increasing the Marine Corps’ capabilities in the Pacific have been underway for several years.
Japan is also expanding its participation, working with US officials to accelerate work on “evolving alliance roles and missions and to employ interoperable and advance capabilities.” This will include establishing a permanent joint headquarters and working with US officials on the command-and-control arrangements.