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Military friendship association raises suspicions

Date Posted: 2003-05-24

A local Naha-based group, the U.S. - Japan Servicemen's Friendship Association, took a step into a touchy political arena last weekend when it inaugurated a new chapter in Ishigaki, southern Okinawa. The organization's leadership Saturday proposed deepening interaction between the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) and the US Military during a press conference. The news session came as the Yaeyama Chapter Sakishima Region was formally presented to the general public.

The Chapter President explained the organization's idea for fostering better relations, saying "Although there is an JSDF allergy within the Prefecture citizens, it is necessary to know the opponent to think about the pros and cons." The Yaeyama Region Labor Union responded negatively to the U.S. - Japan Servicemen's Friendship Association, and others showed opposition stating "We feel danger in the midst of the emergency bill development," and they are entering their correspondence examination and is causing spread of repercussions.

The Friendship Association President, Yoshio Mori, explained that his organization was undertaken in June '96. In addition to the Naha Region, Central Region, Southern Region and the Sakishima Region, it is comprised of approximately 60 members all around.

Its membership is comprised of Japanese business and political leaders, as well as several JSDF and US Military members. The organization wants to increase public awareness and understanding for the JSDF and US Military on Okinawa, and uses its meetings and social functions as opportunities to showcase bringing the two countries closer together.

The Ishigaki group began nurturing its roots two years ago in Sakishima Region. Mr. Sakihama served as the representative during the formative period, and is the Sakishima Region Chairman. There are 19 members for the Sakishima Region, nearly all based in Ishigaki. They meet once a month, and are scheduled to hold a study group by inviting JSDF and US Military service members.

Chairman Sakihama stated "There is a JSDF allergy in Yaeyama and Ishigaki where there are no US Military and JSDF bases. Is it okay to oppose without interacting? Therefore, we would like to interact on a neutral and impartial ground and continue our studies." Also, when asked about the local cooperation under the emergency law, he remained to respond stating "Making a base and others are different. The inauguration of the group has nothing to do with the emergency law."

On the other hand, Chairman Uramoto from the Yaeyama Region Labor Union Council expressed his sense of distrust, saying "There is a need for us to examine how to appeal the exclusively defensive hereon and how we should correspond. We would like to hold discussions with the branch offices of the High School Teachers' Union and Okinawa Education Union since the working team will be established on or about June 23rd.

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