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US military holds controversial parachute training in Okinawa despite requests to stop

U.S. military personnel are seen partaking in a parachute drill at the Kadena Air Base in the town of Kadena, Okinawa Prefecture, on July 9, 2020. (Mainichi/Nozomu Takeuchi)

NAHA -- The U.S. military held controversial parachute training at the Kadena Air Base in Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa on July 9.

Paradrop training at the Kadena Air Base, stretching across the town of Kadena and other municipalities, was conducted for the first time since a drill in October 2019. The prefecture and local governments of surrounding areas have been requesting for the drills to be suspended, arguing that the safety of residents cannot be secured.

The U.S. and Japanese governments agreed in 1996 that parachute training will be conducted at an auxiliary airfield on Ie Island off the northern coast of Okinawa's main island, and that drills at the Kadena base will be limited to "exceptional cases." However, the U.S. military has conducted drills at the base repeatedly as "exceptional cases," and held a record number of four drills in 2019. According to the town's government, the U.S. military notified the local government that it would hold drills at the Kadena Air Base due to bad weather at Ie Island.

Hiroshi Touyama, mayor of Kadena, told the press, "It is highly deplorable. As those in a position to protect the safety of community residents, we absolutely cannot allow paradrop training at the Kadena Air Base even if the activities fall under exceptional cases agreed upon by Japan and the United States."

(Japanese original by Nozomu Takeuchi, Naha Bureau)

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