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Hirara City Mayor Incensed by Helicopters Refueling

Date Posted: 2003-05-03

Mayor Akira Ishimine of Hirara City, Miyako Island, was so upset about U.S. military helicopters refueling the city's civilian airport enroute to Philippines that he printed a special edition of Hirara's city magazine and handed it out on the streets to protest the incident.

U.S. Marines had asked the prefectural government to allow its aircraft to use Miyako airport on Miyakojima Island from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday for refueling on their way to the Philippines.

The city printed 5,000 copies of the magazine and called on residents to protest the move, the officials said. "I am indignant," Ishimine was quoted in the magazine as saying. "I am afraid U.S. military aircraft will habitually fly to our airport, and I strongly oppose the forcible use of the airport by such aircraft using the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement as an excuse."

Hirara City has also called on the prefectural government to stop the U.S. military from using the civilian airport and urged the Naha Regional Defense Facilities Administration Bureau to revise the agreement, which allows the U.S. military to use the airport without permission of the municipal government.

The U.S. military has used the Shimojijima airport on Irabu Island near Miyakojima in the past for refueling.

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