Seoul, South Korea
The United States Marine Corps on Thursday officially opened its first new base in 70 years, a 4,000-acre installation on the US Pacific island of Guam that one day is expected to host 5,000 Marines.
Construction of Camp Blaz, as it is formally known, was partially funded by the Japanese government as part of a deal made during the Barack Obama administration to move Marines from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, where their presence has led to resentment.
The ceremony, technically a reactivation of the base, follows its soft activation in October 2020 in a limited ceremony during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thursday’s formal opening comes amid a broader US strategy to disperse and strengthen its forces around the Pacific amid increasing tensions with China.
“Camp Blaz will serve as a strategic hub as the Department of Defense realizes the vision of the 2022 National Defense Strategy,” a Marine Corps press release said.
That 2022 document lists two of the US Defense Department’s top priorities as “defending the homeland, paced to the growing multi-domain threat posed by the PRC (People’s Republic of China)” and “deterring strategic attacks against the United States, allies, and partners.”
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger touched on both at a ceremony on Guam Thursday.
“Forward, persistent presence is key to the regional security and stability in the Indo-Pacific. Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz is a critical part of that. More than that, it shows our undivided relationship with the government of Japan,” Berger said.
“The Japan and US alliance is the cornerstone of the people, the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and the linchpin of Japan’s foreign policy,” Japanese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoshikawa Yuumi said.
The Marine Corps says Camp Blaz is the first new installation it has activated since 1952, when what is now known as Marine Corps Logistics Base, Albany, Georgia, opened.
The base, which is not yet fully completed as construction projects continue, joins another key US military installation, Andersen Air Force Base, on Guam’s northern plateau.