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Military use of Shimoji Airport stirs weekend demonstrations

Date Posted: 2004-12-02

A proposed American plan for both U.S. and Japan Self Defense Forces to use a civilian airport on Shimoji Island is triggering protests and demonstrations in the southern Okinawa islands.

A weekend rally staged by Miyako Residents Opposed to Military Use of the Airfield drew several thousand protestors. They’re demanding Japanese officials stick to the terms of a years-old agreement that airfield use be limited to commercial air traffic.

The demonstrators also voiced their opposition to the planned Henoko Airfield, a replacement for the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan. Essentially, the protesters are demanding the Status of Forces Agreement be rewritten.

Irabu Mayor Ken Hamagawa, a co-leader to the Miyako Residents group, took the stance residents must be firm against military intrusions onto the southern islands.

An angry Hirara City mayor was more stern, blasting the U.S. and blaming Futenma for causing Iraqi citizens to suffer. He says “we cannot allow the airport to contribute as a murder facility.” He suggests military traffic be limited to Miyako, Naha and mainland Japan.

A dozen prefecture assemblymen and representatives of schools, civic groups and government agencies also joined the demonstration. High school students also joined the protest, some expressing fears that Shimoji’s addition of military traffic could cause another incident like the August 13th Marine Corps helicopter crash onto Okinawa International University’s campus in Ginowan. That crash was only a few hundred yards from Futenma MCAS.

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