U.S. military parachute training in Tsuken Island becoming a regular occurrence

U.S. military parachute training in Tsuken Island becoming a regular occurrence

Soldiers descending one after another from special mission aircraft Lockheed MC-130 using parachutes on July 19 just past 7:00 p.m. on the shore of Tsuken Island in Uruma City (Photograph taken by Keizo Shinzato).

July 20, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

At 7:20 p.m. on July 19, the U.S. Air Force conducted parachute training over the water in the Tsuken Jima Training Area in Uruma City. At two separate times, a total of six parachutes were seen descending from special mission aircraft Lockheed MC-130. Parachute trainings had been conducted three-months in a row starting this January, making this training the fourth one. In January, the training was conducted without Japan being notified, causing people from the city and prefecture to strongly protest the training. However, now that training has become a regular occurrence, it has been receiving strong backlash from local citizens.

Located near the training area are mozuku seaweed farms and routes for fishing and commercial boats. Liner ships that connect Tsuken Island and the main island of Okinawa also come and go in the nearby area. Due to these reasons, for the citizens’ safety and peace of mind, the city strongly urges canceling the training every time it happens.

With the 1996 Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) Agreement, the Yontan Airfield, where parachute trainings had been previously conducted, was relocated to Ie Island. In response to this, the prefecture has been requesting that the U.S. Air Force not conduct parachute trainings over the water in the Tsuken Jima Training Area.

Regarding the difference in opinion between the prefecture and country, Uruma City Mayor Toshio Shimabukuro said, “Both sides are not seeing eye to eye, while the local people continue to become more upset. We’d prefer if (the trainings) did not happen, but while the water area near Tsuken Island is offered, we’d at least want the U.S. military to take safety into consideration and maintain peace and quiet.” The mayor thereby requested more detailed plans for trainings and for the U.S. Air Force to notify them beforehand.

(English translation by T&CT and Chelsea Ashimine)

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