The U.S. forces are planning to relocate a part of the Okinawa-based
U.S. Marine Corps to a Self-Defense Force training field in the other
side of Japan. There are local farmers who own a piece of land inside
the field and are fighting against the relocation plan. The following
is the article provided by the Japan Press Service.
Japan Press Service
Japan Peace Committee
U.S. Marine artillery unit to move to SDF training field in Hokkaido
The Japanese and U.S. governments are planning to relocate a U.S.
Marine Corps artillery unit stationed in Okinawa to the Ground
Self-Defense Force (GSDF) Yausubetsu exercise field in Hokkaido,
Japan's northernmost prefecture.
Kawase Hanji owns a piece of land inside the Yausubetsu exercise field,
which is the biggest SDF training field in Japan. For over 40 years,
the 78-year-old farmer has been refusing to accept the Japanese
government's request to give up his land.
Hearing artillery shells fired is a part of Kawase's everyday life.
He said, "Some say that the U.S. Marines will not move to Yausubetsu
because it is frozen during winter, but they come here every winter to
Since the Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) agreed
to reduce the burdens of U.S. forces activities on Okinawans in 1996,
the U.S. Marine Corps artillery units have been conducting live-shell
firing exercises with 155 mm howitzers four times a year in five
different GSDF training fields on mainland Japan, including Yausubetsu
in Hokkaido and Higashifuji in Shizuoka Prefecture.
In Yausubetsu, the U.S. Marine Corps unit is also carrying out training
exercises to cope with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons,
exercises that were never conducted in Okinawa.
Ura Funasaburo, a 66-year-old landowner living inside the Yausubetsu
training area, is concerned because the Japanese government has been
spending large amounts of money as part of its effort to strengthen
facilities in the exercise ground since the artillery unit began to
conduct the practice there. He said, "Trees in an impact area were all
cut down, and a new impact area was created. We have seen significant
changes inside and outside this field."
Quarters and dining halls for U.S. forces, three towers for the
observation of impact areas, as well as nine electric bulletin boards
were set up.
The U.S. forces have reportedly requested the Japanese government to
improve conditions at the local airport and seaport as well as to
construct housing units and welfare facilities for U.S. military
personnel and their families in preparation for a partial relocation of
Okinawa-stationed U.S. Marines.
Ura said, "In Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. Marine Corps are always the
first ones to attack and kill people. We continue to tell local people
what it means to allow such a unit to live in our community." (end)