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Southwest Japan city to accept US military spy drones at MSDF base for 1 yr

Kanoya Mayor Shigeru Nakanishi announces his intention to accept U.S. military spy drones, at city hall in Kagoshima Prefecture on July 11, 2022. (Mainichi/Yoshikazu Shinkai)

KANOYA, Kagoshima -- The mayor of this southwestern Japan city told assembly members on July 11 about his intention to agree to the U.S. military temporarily deploying surveillance drones at the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF)'s base in the city, saying, "We can't help but accept them."

    The U.S. military in Japan plans to temporarily deploy aircraft including the unmanned surveillance planes MQ-9 at the MSDF's Kanoya Air Base.

    Kanoya Mayor Shigeru Nakanishi made the announcement during a July 11 assembly meeting, saying, "They are necessary for defense reasons amid the security environment around Japan becoming increasingly severe." The municipal assembly also passed a resolution at the end of June to accept the plan. It is expected that the operation of eight aircraft will begin as early as in September with a one-year limit.

    Nakanishi explained the reason for the decision, saying, "The deployment is limited to a year, and a local liaison office will be set up to respond to citizens' anxieties and concerns." While the deployment was intended to start in around July in the initial plan, Japan's Ministry of Defense has explained that the project will be delayed to September or later because it takes time to transport in materials to set up facilities among other reasons. During the deployment, 150 to 200 U.S. Air Force personnel will commute between hotels in the city where they will stay and the base.

    Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry only officially notified the city of the plan in May. Municipal assembly members who oppose the move expressed their anger at the mayor, who decided to accept the proposal only about one and a half months after the official notification. One of the members said, "The decision was made too quickly, and citizens' anxieties have not been eased." In an explanatory session held in June by the Defense Ministry, there were also many voices of concern about incidents caused by U.S. military personnel and the deployment becoming permanent.

    The Kyushu Defense Bureau's planning department manager Atsushi Endo commented, "We appreciate the (mayor's) announcement to accept the plan. We'd like to keep striving to provide information."

    (Japanese original by Yoshikazu Shinkai, Kanoya Local Bureau)

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