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Elephant Cage demolition now under way

Date Posted: 2007-06-14

A former US military communications intercept facility in Yomitan is being dismantled.

Heavy construction equipment is tearing down the Elephant Cage, which served as a vital listening post for the American Army for decades, monitoring communications between ships and aircraft in the region. The last of 30 antennas, some 28~40m tall, fell a week ago, and Naha Defense Facilities Administration Bureau officials say they hope to complete the demolition project by late this month. It first tore down the towers ringing the 200-meter diameter Sobe Communications Site, then hauled the antennas into the middle of the 53-hectare site.

Peace activist and land owner Shoichi Chibana, who has lobbied for more than 20 years to get his land back, condemned the government for “shamelessly depriving individuals of their land”, but said he was happy now. The Sobe site was focus of a national debate in 1995 when Okinawa’s governor, Masahide Ota, refused to approve a central government order to keep it operational. For more than a year, until April 2006, the U.S. facility was operated without legal status.

Once demolition is complete, and debris hauled away, the government will return the property to the landowners. At that point, the 53 hectares of land becomes taxable, just like any other privately owned property.

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