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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 December 21 - 2017 January 3  > US landing drills in Okinawa may quintuple in exchange for ‘partial’ return of training area to Japan
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2016 December 21 - 2017 January 3 [US FORCES]

US landing drills in Okinawa may quintuple in exchange for ‘partial’ return of training area to Japan

December 21, 2016
Akahata has learned that the U.S. military may conduct landing drills in Okinawa for five times as much as the number of days it did before the “partial” return of its Northern Training Area to Japan because other Okinawan land and water areas will be provided to the U.S. in exchange for this return.

The Status of Forces Agreement limits the use of the water area, which the U.S. forces currently use, for up to 25 days per year to carry out landing drills. In the newly added areas, the SOFA only limits the number of landing-drill days to no more than 120 days per year.

Lt. Col. James S. Dorlon, commanding officer at the U.S. jungle warfare training area or Camp Gonsalves in northern Okinawa, in fact, said on an American Forces Network broadcast on November 11 that what the government of Japan is constructing will make the training area a much better place for landing drills.

The U.S. Marine Corps envisages in its Strategic Vision 2025, “While approximately 51% of the unusable Northern Training Area (NTA) will be returned to GOJ, additional available training acreage will be developed where possible, making full use of MCIPAC’s finite land acreage.”

Ota Hironobu living in Kunigami Village which is surrounded by the Northern Training Area said, “The land and estuary waters which will be additionally sacrificed for U.S. landing operation exercises are all inside the village of Kunigami. From there, the closest community is located only two kilometers away. On top of that, the land areas around the mouth of the river are villagers’ plow lands.”

Ota said, “Since the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japan, already 25 accidents and incidents involving the U.S. forces have occurred in addition to U.S. military plane crashes around the Northern Training Area, killing 19 U.S. military personnel.” He added, “Obviously, the accident-prone Osprey flights should be banned. Most importantly, they should all be pulled out of Okinawa.”

Kuniyoshi Tsunehiro, former journalist of the local daily Okinawa Times, recalled the time he visited the Northern Training Area to cover a landing drill and said, “I remember that American soldiers landed on rubber boats from an offshore vessel which was like a submarine and that that was a secret operation exercise being conducted with the objective of destroying a guerilla communication base.”

“However,” he said, “this time, Ospreys will drop rubber rafts and soldiers will parachute from these aircraft to board the rafts. The drills will take place with Army, Navy, Air, and Marine Corp. forces all jointly participating. And, it will make it possible for the U.S. military to conduct such drills for up to 120 days a year.”

He continued to say, “How dangerous this will be has already been shown in the December 13 crash of an MV-22 Osprey into shallow waters off the coast of Nago City.”

Past related articles:
> Okinawa Governor makes strong protest over Osprey crash [December 16, 2016]
> Okinawa assembly adopts statement demanding cancellation of US helipad construction in Takae [July 22 & 23, 2016]
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