U.S. military continues to use former aircraft parking apron, violating SACO agreement

June 2, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

In January this year, the U.S. Navy’s former aircraft parking apron of Kadena Air Base was relocated in accordance with the 1996 Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) agreement to reduce noise in neighboring residential areas. However, on June 1, a representative from Kadena Air Base expressed that the base will continue to utilize the former parking apron in Kadena Town, Okinawa during an interview with Ryukyu Shimpo. The representative’s understanding was that this “does not violate” the agreement.

The Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) and Kadena Town have been protesting the use of the former parking apron. Following a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft flying in from South Korea’s Osan Air Base on May 31, the prefecture and town claim that the use of the parking apron is a violation of the SACO agreement; the U.S. military denies this. The U.S. military is seemingly not holding up their end of the bargain. The local government has been strongly opposing this since it is counteractive to “reducing (their) burden.”

On June 1, a representative from Kedena Air Base responded to Ryukyu Shimpo’s interview. The representative denied violating the agreement and said, “The temporary use of the north aircraft parking apron (Navy’s former aircraft parking apron) is in line with the agreement made by both the Japanese and U.S. governments.” On May 31, the Japanese government requested that the U.S. Air Force carry out “operations that would take the noise reduction initiative from the SACO Final Report into account.”

A representative from the Kadena Air Base commented, “[We’ll] only use the north aircraft parking apron only when there is no other choice.” The representative then commented, “[We] have operational demands for Kadena Air Base.” The representative expressed that Kadena Air Base intends to continue to use the former parking apron.

Following a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft using the former parking apron on May 31, OPG official Takekuni Ikeda called Colonel Paul Oldham, Commander of the 18th Mission Support Group, Kadena Air Base over the phone and requested for the base to stop using the parking apron. It was pointed out that the use of the parking apron “clearly goes against the intent of the SACO agreement.” Commander Oldham argued otherwise and said, “It does not violate the SACO agreement.”

Even after the relocation in January, transient aircrafts (KC-135 Stratotanker and C-146A Wolfhound) have flown in and have temporarily landed at the former parking apron. People from Kadena Town are upset, claiming that the relocation effort was pointless.

According to a representative from the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the U-2 reconnaissance aircrafts will continue to use the former parking apron for about a month.

(English translation by T&CT and Chelsea Ashmine)

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