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US forces promise recon drones to be deployed at Japan base will be operated safely

Kanoya Mayor Shigeru Nakanishi, standing to the right, meets U.S. Forces Japan Deputy Commander James B. Wellons, second from left on the opposite side of the table. (Mainichi)

KANOYA, Kagoshima -- The eight U.S. MQ-9 reconnaissance drones set to be deployed temporarily to the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) base here will be operated safely, U.S. Forces Japan Deputy Commander James B. Wellons has told Kanoya Mayor Shigeru Nakanishi.

    Wellons made the comment at an Aug. 4 meeting with Nakanishi at the city hall.

    At the meeting's outset Nakanishi told Wellons, "There mustn't be any incidents or accidents caused by U.S. military personnel or their affiliates." He also asked the brigadier general that U.S. personnel be thoroughly educated and trained regarding the planned MQ-9 deployment at MSDF Kanoya Air Base.

    Wellons then told the mayor of the Kagoshima Prefecture city that U.S. forces appreciated residents' understanding of the deployment's importance, and that they will pay close attention to ensuring safe operations.

    The rest of the meeting was closed to the media. Following the talks, Nakanishi told the press, "We've got a clear response that (U.S. forces) will address residents' anxieties and concerns properly." He added, "The U.S. military appears to be willing to create opportunities to interact with residents, while performing their duties."

    Wellons and his party later visited the Kagoshima Prefectural Government headquarters and met Kagoshima Deputy Gov. Naruaki Fujimoto and other officials, asking for their understanding of the deployment.

    Under the plan, eight MQ-9s will be stationed at the Kanoya Air Base for a year from around this September, with 150 to 200 U.S. personnel needed to operate the aircraft billeted at hotels in the city. Two advance parties have already arrived at the Kanoya MSDF base.

    (Japanese original by Yoshikazu Shinkai, Kanoya Local Bureau, and Shiro Homan, Kagoshima Bureau)

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