The US will "realign" its military presence in Japan, with two allies mulling setting up a new defense unit in Okinawa province.
“A Marine Littoral Regiment, or MLR, will be established within a few years as part of a realignment of the Marine Corps in the southern island prefecture (province),” Tokyo-based Kyodo News reported, quoting unnamed Japan-US diplomatic sources.
The move comes "amid China's intensifying military activities in the East China Sea," the report said, adding that the unit will be set up "for the defense of remote islands in southwestern Japan."
It also stated that the new unit, which will have between 1,800 and 2,000 personnel, "could trigger a backlash from locals."
Around 70% of the total amount of land used exclusively for US military installations in Japan is in Okinawa province.
Japan and the US will discuss the plan during a “two-plus-two” meeting of their foreign and defense ministers in Washington on Wednesday.
The US has approximately 50,000 troops stationed in Japan under a bilateral security pact. Under Article 5 of the pact, “Washington will defend territories under Tokyo's administration from armed attack.”
Tokyo’s plans to beef up its security alliance with Washington come as China’s vessels often enter waters around Tokyo-controlled disputed islands in the East China Sea.
The disputed islets, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China, according to US President Joe Biden “fall under Article 5” of the Japan-US security pact.
Meanwhile, Tokyo and Washington will “step up cooperation in developing and constructing next-generation advanced (nuclear) reactors, including small modular reactors, within each country and third countries.”
It was decided during a meeting between Japanese Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in Washington on Monday.