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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 June 17 - 23  > USMC with China in mind beefs up Iejima facilities in Okinawa
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2020 June 17 - 23 [US FORCES]

USMC with China in mind beefs up Iejima facilities in Okinawa

June 21, 2020

The U.S. Marine Corps is strengthening its functions at Iejima Auxiliary Airfield located nine kilometers northwest of Okinawa's mainland. With U.S.-China tensions growing, the USMC apparently has conflict with China in mind, bringing about an increased risk of making Okinawa a training stronghold or a sortie stronghold for new U.S. operations in Asia.

The USMC in late February began a large-scale 4-month-long renovation work on landing areas and other facilities attached to the Iejima Auxiliary Airfield. The Defense Ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau, based on information from U.S. authorities, explained that it just involves repair work.

However, according to the U.S. military visual information-sharing website DVIDS, a square landing area with 183 meters on each side will be newly constructed in addition to the renovation of a 1,600-meter runway.

In an Akahata interview, the Third Marine Expeditionary Force whose command is based in Okinawa admitted to new operational functions under consideration, saying that the repair work is for future operations and training exercises.

The USMC plans to build temporary strongpoints on remote islands like "stepping stones" so that the Marines can move from one to another according to the demands of the battle situation. They also plan to create a special unit called "Marine littoral regiment " which is designed to engage in new operations, and the Third Marine Expeditionary Force will take the lead.

The Third Marine Expeditionary Force in the Akahata interview stated that the first littoral regiment will be established in three years and will conduct maritime intercept operations in contested maritime environments as a member of a larger Navy expeditionary force.

What the Marines mean by "contested maritime environment" here clearly points to the South China Sea and assumes a U.S. naval battle with China.

A new Marine littoral regiment will be based in Hawaii. Training exercises to be ready for the creation of a first regiment will be led by the Marine Corps units stationed in Okinawa. It is highly likely that Okinawa will be used as a forward base for combat operations and training.
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