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JMSDF training plan irritates Okinawans

Date Posted: 2007-05-18

The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force ship Bungo is enroute to Okinawa from Yokusuka Navy Base, headed for training exercises in the Henoko area near the proposed site for a new military airfield.

The ship, with containers, robber boats, oxygen cylinders and other equipment, is to conduct military training in the area where environmental assessment operations for the replacement airfield are on hold. Okinawa’s governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, calls the training plan unhealthy. “I think now, to move to Okinawa, makes things nervous for the opposition,” he said, “and I don’t think it’s the Navy’s job to get rid of opposition protesters from the site.”

Nakaima says “we have a good relationship between the Self Defense Force and the Okinawan people,” but warns that “I don’t want the Self Defense Force to stroke Okinawans the wrong way.” He says opponents might misunderstand the Self Defense Force motives, so “It’s better to keep away from the Henoko area.” Nago City’s mayor is an advocate of the new airfield, but also says the MSDF decision is not good, because “It may confuse the Okinawan people and mostly our Nago City people.”

The central government in Tokyo rejects the fears from Okinawa leaders. “You guys think too much,” said one official. “Self Defense forces will never fight with local people. Their job is not guard duty.” He added the MSDF exercises “always and everywhere. They’re going to Okinawa for training.”

Opposition groups and demonstrators say they’ll be watching the Navy ship, but add “if they don’t tell us why they’re coming to Okinawa, we’re going to be upset.”

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