US to set up Marine unit in Okinawa to defend remote islands

The US government plans to set up a new unit of the Marine Corps stationed in Japan's southern prefecture of Okinawa. The unit is designed to respond to military threats to the remote islands.

The US government is set to reorganize the Marines and create a Marine Littoral Regiment, or MLR by the end of March 2026.

The move comes amid growing Chinese presence in the East China and South China seas.

MLRs are equipped with anti-ship missiles and air defense capabilities. They can deploy small groups of Marines to areas around remote islands. The unit aims to stop the advance of enemy vessels and planes.
US forces established the first MLR in Hawaii in March 2022.

Meanwhile, the US intends to downsize heavy weaponry units in Okinawa, and the number of soldiers is expected to remain unchanged in its plan to reorganize US forces in Japan.

The Japanese and US governments are expected to confirm the plans to deploy the new Marine unit at a "two-plus-two" meeting of their foreign and defense ministers on Wednesday in Washington.