The U.S. Marine Corps opened its first new base in 70 years Thursday on Guam, an island strategically positioned between Japan and Taiwan to allow American troops to act if China makes a move on Taiwan, according to media reports.
The 4,000-acre base, formally known as Camp Blaz, will house approximately 5,000 Marines and comes as the U.S. is seeking to reorganize troop presence in the Pacific to bolster deterrence against China, according to CNN. It will eventually serve as a training hub for Marines aiming to guard allies, critical sea lanes and Pacific islands in the event of a Chinese invasion, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Forward, persistent presence is key to the regional security and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said, according to a Corps press release.
“Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz is a critical part of that. More than that, it shows our undivided relationship with the government of Japan,” he added.
The U.S. and Japan agreed on Jan. 11 to restructure the Marine Corps force stationed in Okinawa, giving them more firepower and the ability to quickly respond as China readies for a potential offensive against Taiwan. A new strategy will arm the roughly 18,000 Marines deployed to Okinawa with missiles that can reach the Chinese mainland and increase their maneuverability if they are called upon to defend Taiwan.
Japan’s leadership approved a historic defense budget increase, including $2 billion to buy U.S.-made Tomahawk missiles, in December amid burgeoning threats from China and North Korea.
Opening Camp Blaz will support the Corps’ role in fulfilling President Joe Biden’s 2022 National Defense Strategy, which identifies China as the pacing threat, the press release said.
Camp Blaz is the first new Corps installation since Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia, opened in 1952, according to CNN.
Construction on Camp Blaz began under former President Barack Obama, who cut a deal with Tokyo to relocate Marines from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa in exchange for partial funding by the Japanese government, according to CNN. U.S. forces stationed on Okinawa have caused upset among local inhabitants.
“The Japan and U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of the people, the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and the linchpin of Japan’s foreign policy,” Yoshikawa Yuumi, Japan’s vice minister for foreign affairs, said, according to the release.
Thursday’s ceremony was technically a reactivation of the base, as it underwent a soft opening in Oct. 202o in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Marine Corps formally inaugurated the base in a Jan. 26 ceremony, according to the Corps press release.
The Corps has endured a nearly continuous presence on Guam since the establishment of the Marine Barracks there in 1899, the Corps said in the release. The barracks was deactivated on Nov. 10, 1992.
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