Government’s broken promise not to store missiles on base unravels locals’ condition for accepting GSDF deployment

Government’s broken promise not to store missiles on base unravels locals’ condition for accepting GSDF deployment

Caption: Storage vault in which munitions were stored without informing local residents; photograph taken on April 6 at the Miyakojima post in Nobaru, Ueno, Miyakojima

April 8, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo
By Junnichi Maeshiro

When the Ministry of Defense was still in the stage of planning to deploy a security force in Miyako, local residents demanded that missiles not be stored at the deployment site. In response, the Ministry of Defense continually told residents that they would not deploy munitions at the site, but it recently came to light that mid-range multipurpose missiles, mortars, and other armaments are being stored at a storage vault there.

In response to the issue coming to light, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya issued an apology during his attendance at a force flag presentation ceremony on April 7, saying, “Our explanation was insufficient.” However, backlash from local residents is increasing. The local councils in Chiyoda and Nobaru, villages adjacent to the base, had adopted a stance of effectively accepting the force deployment with certain conditions such as that regional revitalization measures be implemented. However, since non-storage of munitions was a premise for their acceptance, many residents are expressing bewilderment and anger at the current revelation.

On the night of April 4, the Okinawa Defense Bureau held an information session for residents of Chiyoda. The Defense Bureau merely apologized over and over, providing no specific responses to residents’ questions, and the two sides came to no mutual understanding. Residents who attended the session made comments such as “the condition precedent [to the deployment] has come undone” and “they did not do as they promised.” No information session has been held yet in Nobaru, but backlash is likely to occur.

In addition, it also came to light that the base grounds may be used as a takeoff and landing spot for helicopters during times of emergency.

The Ministry of Defense has not agreed to residents’ request that helipads not be set up at the base.

Can the defense minister’s alleged “thorough explanation” really erase residents’ concerns and doubts about the safety of their daily lives?

The government’s fundamental handling of the situation is being called into question now that the premise for local acceptance of the force deployment has come unraveled.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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