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Southern island airport does not want military

Date Posted: 2004-11-18

The Japanese government thinks U.S. military aircraft should be able to use the Shimoji Airport on Miyako Island.

Okinawa Prefecture and local officials in the southern islands don’t agree. The U.S. military had proposed opening the airport to training use by its aircrews, partially as an alternative to maintaining high operations levels at the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Base in Ginowan.

“Why not use the airport together with training civilian airlines and their pilots,” asked the mainland government. “There’s no reason we can’t use the airport together.”

Responding quickly, Okinawa Prefecture noted “we have never had discussion about an agreement on the airport, and according to the agreement already in place, Shimoji’s airport should not be used as a military port.”

The Japanese government insists that the military should use it, as requested by the American military, which wants access as a temporary airport.

Okinawa denies the Americans have asked, saying “No, No. America never asked to use Shimoji as Futenma Air Station. We are just discussing this with the military. Systems must be reviewed.”

Japanese Defense Agency leaders say there was a request, and a response. It’s proposal is that the two sides work together. Miyako residents are opposed, and are protesting the Tokyo position.

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