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thedrifter
04-26-06, 07:22 AM
Okinawans say U.S. military still a problem
04/26/2006
The Asahi Shimbun

NAHA--Just because Tokyo and Washington reached agreement on paying for the relocation of U.S. Marines to Guam, Okinawan concerns about the U.S. military presence did not magically disappear.

"From the standpoint of Okinawa Prefecture, the issue does not come down to costs but how far our burden can be eased," Reiji Fumoto, a prefectural government official in charge of base issues, said Monday.

"Now at last, the reversion of bases in Okinawa will truly begin."

Japan and the United States have agreed to transfer about 8,000 of the total 15,000 U.S. Marines in Okinawa Prefecture to Guam. About 9,000 family members will move, too.

However, the personnel being relocated are mainly in command duties. Most of the operational units will remain in the prefecture, doing little to help ease residents' concerns about accident risks, noise pollution and crime.

"Among those who commit crimes in Okinawa, there are many young Marines in operational units," said Suzuyo Takazato, 66, a former Naha city assemblywoman committed to resolving military base issues.

Tokyo and Washington also plan, via rearranging military units, to return about 1,500 hectares of land currently occupied by military bases south of Kadena to their owners.

Even if all that land is returned, though, it constitutes less than 10 percent of the 23,000 hectares taken up by U.S. military facilities in Okinawa.

Some owners of base land and Japanese who work there say they are being left in the lurch.

The central government pays 76.5 billion yen annually to lease the land for U.S. bases in the prefecture. It will guarantee that amount for three years after the land plots are returned, but no longer.

The closure of the military areas could also mean a massive loss of jobs.

"The land was seized arbitrarily and now it's being returned arbitrarily. We can't handle that," said Urasoe Mayor Mitsuo Gima.

Urasoe is home to the 273-hectare Marine Makiminato Service Area, one of the land plots to be returned.(IHT/Asahi: April 26,2006)

Ellie