Ie Village mayor speaks up about scope of U.S. parachute drop training in Okinawa

Ie Village mayor speaks up about scope of U.S. parachute drop training in Okinawa

Ie Villege Mayor Hideyuki Shimabukuro

June 13, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

On June 12 Ie Village Mayor Hideyuki Shimabukuro spoke about the accepted scope of parachute drop training, and in regard to the U.S. military’s Ie Jima Auxiliary Airfield being the agreed-upon place for parachute drop training to be conducted in the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) agreement. He explained his perception that, “Based on the SACO final agreement parachute drop training is allowed where it was once conducted above the land of Yomitan Auxiliary Airfield, yet this does not include the ocean or other areas.”

After this recent training exercise took place at the Tsuken Jima ocean training area in Uruma City, which is not included in the agreement, Mayor Shimabukuro said, “The attitude that [training] at Ie Jima is natural and should be accepted is regrettable.” His statements took place on June 12 at a plenary session of the village assembly.

In the 1996 SACO Final Report, it was agreed that parachute drop training would be moved from Yomitan Auxiliary Airfield to Ie jima Auxiliary Airfield. Yet in 2007 the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee confirmed that Kadena Air Base could be used “only in exceptional cases.”

On May 21 the U.S. military conducted its third parachute drop training of the year at Kadena Air Base. Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya spoke the same day about this training at Kadena being limited to exceptional cases, saying, “I will ask the U.S. to conduct [training] at Ie Jima Airfield.”

However, it has been pointed out that training was conducted in the ocean at Tsuken Jima four times in May alone, which normalizes training there.

Mayor Shimabukuro expressed his viewpoint that, “In exceptional cases the training is to take place over the land at Kadena, it is not supposed to take place over the ocean.” He mentioned his concern that the U.S. military now has use conditions that allow it to conduct parachute drop training over the ocean at Tsuken, as addressed in U.S. military bases in Okinawa (issued by the Okinawa Prefectural Military Base Affairs Division).

Additionally, he expressed that although Ie Village is included in SACO, it does not mean Ie accepts it. He said the village begrudgingly accepts details as those might lead to consolidation and reduction of military bases, and alleviate the base burden on Okinawa. Furthermore, he expressed that the recent attitude of such training being accepted on Ie Jima is very unexpected and regrettable.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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