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Okinawa governor demands halt to ceremony for return of land from U.S. base

NAHA -- In response to the Dec. 13 crash of a U.S. military aircraft along the coast of Okinawa Prefecture, Gov. Takeshi Onaga has demanded the Japanese government cancel a ceremony for the return of some land from the U.S. military to Japan.

The ceremony marking the return of a portion of the sprawling U.S. Marine Corps Jungle Warfare Training Center, also known as Camp Gonsalves, in northern Okinawa Prefecture is scheduled for Dec. 22.

"Considering how the people of Okinawa feel, the ceremony should not be allowed to take place," he said.

On the morning of Dec. 14, Gov. Onaga summoned Okinawa Defense Bureau head Koichiro Nakajima and Foreign Ministry ambassador in charge of Okinawa affairs Tsukasa Kawada to the Okinawa Prefectural Government office in Naha and lodged a firm complaint regarding the crash of a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft into the waters off Okinawa the previous night.

"I cannot help but be angered by the accident caused by an Osprey, the deployment of which the people of Okinawa have staunchly opposed," he said. "I strongly demand that the aircraft be grounded, and their deployment in Okinawa rescinded."

Onaga also said, "I understand the incident to be a crash. The fears of the Okinawan people have become a reality, and I am in deep shock."

Both Nakajima and Kawada told Onaga that Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, the top U.S. military officer in Okinawa and the Okinawa Area Coordinator and Commanding General of III Marine Expeditionary Force, told them that the accident occurred due to a malfunction during refueling training. No apologies were given.

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