Tokyo, Jan 10 (EFE).- Amid escalating regional tensions, the US wants to set up a quick reaction Marine Corps unit that can coordinate air and missile defense operations on Japan’s Okinawa islands, according to local media on Tuesday.
As China intensifies its military activities in the region, Kyodo News quoted US and Japanese diplomatic sources as saying that a Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR) will come up within a few years as part of a reorganization of the Marine Corps on the southern island prefecture.
The plan is expected to be discussed at a meeting between the Japanese and US foreign and defense ministers in Washington on Wednesday, ahead of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s official visit on Friday.
Marine Littoral Regiments, consisting of about 1,800 to 2,000 personnel per unit, can flexibly deploy small groups of marines to remote islands to secure footholds to attack enemies and support US or allied warships.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the MLR forces can conduct strike operations, coordinate missile defenses, and support maritime domain awareness and naval surface warfare operations.
The US and Japan are reinforcing their response capabilities on the southern Japanese islands (close to Taiwan) amid growing Chinese military activities.
On Monday, 57 aircraft and four Chinese military ships carried out incursions into areas around Taiwan, the island’s defense ministry said.
Chinese coast guard ships have also repeatedly entered Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands – a group of Tokyo-controlled islets that China claims as its own.
China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan, considers the self-governed island a rogue province since the Kuomintang nationalists withdrew there in 1949 after losing the civil war against the communists.
The island is also one of the primary sources of the diplomatic dispute between China and the US, mainly because Washington is Taiwan’s biggest arms supplier.
In 1979, Washington broke its official diplomatic ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing. However, the American Institute in Taiwan operates as a de facto embassy in Taipei.
The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act requires the US to ensure Taiwan has military resources to defend itself from any external invasion. EFE