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U.S. to fund new live fire range

Date Posted: 2007-08-11

Despite objections from local officials, the US military will build a new shooting range inside the perimeter of Camp Hansen.

Kin Town’s mayor expressed his displeasure at the announcement Friday, telling officials from the Ministry of Self Defense Naha District Agency, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “we can’t accept construction work.” Tsuyoshi Gibu said “It’s too much burden for Kin Town residents,” adding “I protest strongly.”

The 1,200 meter long range will be built inside Range 3 at Camp Hansen, and will be used by the Army’s Special Forces as a live fire rifle range. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Self Defense Agency officials told Kin Town officials the new range will be safe. It’s located 500 meters away from the Okinawa Expressway, and one kilometer away from residential areas. More important, the official explained, targets will be away from residential areas, pointing to the mountainside to the northwest.

The facility will be 14 meters high, with a three-story building with ten firing points on both second and third floors. The range will be strictly a rifle range used for weapons qualification, officials say, and will not be used for urban battle exercises. Targets will range from 100 to 1,200 meters. The U.S. military is to solicit vendor bids, with construction to begin next February. The target completion date is July 2009.

Kin Town Assembly chairman Yoshimasa Matsuda says “It’s a big problem to build the facility near residential areas. Range 3 is quite near the residential area.” Matsuda says he’ll call a meeting next week to decide what the Town’s position will be. The mayor, meanwhile, has already called a press conference to denounce the construction, asking the media “why only northern Okinawa should have the burden of the military?” He says “I will be against this building, and will protest to the Naha Self Defense Agency.”

Igei’s ward chief, Masafumi Ikehara, has already complained about projects in the area. We just protested about the Range 4 construction, but the Japanese government has done nothing to understand us.” Range 4 is a temporary facility until Range 16 is completed.

This is the second announcement in a week that irritates northern communities adjacent to Camp Hansen. Kin Town, Ginoza Village and Onna Village were told last week that the Japanese Ground Self Defense forces will soon begin joint training exercises at Camp Hansen.

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