Photo/IllutrationCamp Hansen in Okinawa serves as a base for the U.S. Marine Corps. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japan will model a new amphibious combat force on the U.S. Marine Corps in March 2018 and may deploy part of it in Okinawa Prefecture.

The Ground Self-Defense Force amphibious mobile landing forces will be in charge of defending outlying islands and will initially be based at Camp Ainoura in Nagasaki Prefecture and other locations in Kyushu, according to several government sources.

Deploying a unit to Camp Hansen in Okinawa in the early 2020s is also being considered.

Discussions are continuing with U.S. military officials about whether the GSDF units can jointly use Camp Hansen, which is used as a U.S. Marine base.

Realignment of the U.S. military in Japan will mean that some troops will be moved from Okinawa to Guam.

If the GSDF is deployed at Camp Hansen, it would not reduce the base burden that has troubled Okinawa residents for so long.

Deploying the Japanese "marines" to Okinawa would put them within striking distance of the disputed Senkaku Islands, and they would have a deterrent effect on Chinese activity in the East China Sea.

The new contingent would initially have about 2,100 members. Those based at Camp Ainoura would include two regiments in addition to a command unit.

The possible deployment to Camp Hansen would occur in the early 2020s when a third regiment of about 600 members is scheduled to be formed, according to government sources.

After an August meeting of the Cabinet ministers of Japan and the United States in charge of foreign affairs and defense, a joint statement was released that said the SDF structure would be strengthened including in the area around the southwestern island chain of Japan. The two sides also confirmed their plan to promote the joint use of U.S. bases in Japan.

Officials of the two governments began discussions in the wake of that statement and confirmed the basic plan of deploying one of the GSDF's amphibious mobile landing units to Camp Hansen after some U.S. Marine units now based there are moved to Guam.

U.S. military officials in Okinawa have asked their Japanese counterparts to form a team to hammer out the specifics about the unit to be eventually deployed to Camp Hansen.

Japan and the United States in 2006 compiled a road map for realignment of the U.S. military in Japan with the objective of reducing the base burden on Okinawa while maintaining deterrence.

In 2012, the two sides agreed to move about 9,000 U.S. Marines based in Okinawa to outside Japan, with about 4,000 of those troops moving to Guam. An announcement was made the following year that the move to Guam would begin in the early 2020s.

The government plans to proceed with the deployment while observing the reaction from Okinawa.