WASHINGTON — The United States will remove 7,000 Marines from Okinawa in a major overhaul of its troops and bases in Japan under a U.S. plan to make its military more flexible, top officials said Saturday.
The base realignment unveiled by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Japan Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono also boosts military cooperation in areas such as disaster relief and ballistic missile defense.
Earlier last week, the two governments agreed to close the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in the crowded southern part of Okinawa and move its functions to Camp Schwab in the north, clearing the way for broader weekend talks on defense issues.
Okinawans have long complained of crime, crowding and noise associated with the bases. Nearly 15,000 Marines are based in Japan, nearly all in Okinawa.
"We have agreed to the findings and recommendations to strengthen our alliance and achieve strategic objectives," Rumsfeld said at a Defense Department news conference. "Now is the time to move forward with the transformation of our alliance."
Ono said the alliance was getting "a fresh start, new energy and opening a new era ... to improve peace and security."