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Rallies, appeals fruitless as military range resume firing

Date Posted: 2005-08-17

Protests, demonstrations, rallies and even an appeal to the U.S. Ambassador went unheeded and Range 4 is in operation.

The urban warfare training range at Camp Hansen has been the focal point of months long protests from area residents who say they’re afraid the live fire weapons range is too dangerous. U.S. military and Japanese government officials have assured the local population the training facility has safeguards to keep bullets from straying off the range and into civilian territory.

Training resumed nearly a week ago, with the red flag flying above the camp to signal live fire exercises were ongoing. Military officials refuse to reveal exact training schedules for operational security reasons, and the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Okinawa concurs.

Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine took his appeal to Tokyo, meeting face to face with American Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer to ask for the shooting to stop. It was Inamine’s first go around with the Ambassador. He argued not only the danger of the range itself, but the insensitivity of “live fire training conducted without our being specifically told about it.”

Ambassador Schieffer rejected the plea, telling Inamine “the training is absolutely necessary, considering our global war on terrorism efforts.” He told the governor he will not order the urban training to be halted.

Igei District Chief Masafumi Ikehara is furious. “When the shooting starts, nobody knows where the bullets will fly,” he says while declaring his intent to keep pressure on both Japanese and U.S. government officials. “We’ll tenaciously keep appealing and voicing our opposition,” he declared.

Kadena Town has weighed in against the Camp Hansen facility. The Town Assembly unanimously adopted a statement condemning both governments for not more strongly protecting rights of Okinawans. Nago City also adopted a position resolution against the use of Range 4. They sent the document to everyone from the US Forces Japan commander and US Ambassador to the Japanese Foreign Minister and Prime Minister.

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