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U.S. military agrees to stop firing drills at Range 10

Date Posted: 2003-03-08

U.S. Forces Japan announced it will stop live fire practice at Range 10 at Camp Schwab following protests and a resolution by the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly demanding that such drills be stopped.

The demands to stop firing started after a stray bullet apparently originating from the range landed near a local farmer tending his field. The military stopped the drills while the investigation was conducted, but resumed the drills after it was completed.

The U.S. Forces initially refused at first to accept the cease-firing demand. Following the refusal, the Prefectural Assembly, at its Feb. 27 business meeting, prepared a letter for the U.S. Forces Japan Headquarters That letter demanded that the range be closed permanently.

Assembly Member Toshiaki Nakazato was to deliver the letter personally to the U.S. Forces Commander as a representative of the Assembly. He had requested a meeting with the commander through the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative to Okinawa, but was informed later that the commander had refused to meet him and also rejected the resolution of the Assembly.

Following the rejection, the assembly representatives enlisted the help of Minister of Okinawan Development Sadaaki Numata and the U.S. Consulate General to try to arrange the meeting.

This week, the U.S. Forces Japan did a complete about-face and agreed both to meeting Nakazato and receiving the resolution letter. A spokesman for the U.S. Forces Japan refused to say, however, what lead to the change of mind. The move also seemed to surprise Numata. According to local press reports, Numada said “Their change of mind is extraordinarily quick. I find it hard to believe.”

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