By SHINICHI FUJIWARA/ Staff Writer
October 30, 2019 at 13:30 JST
Defense Minister Taro Kono severely criticized the U.S. military’s nighttime parachute drop at the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture on Oct. 29, saying it goes against an agreement on boundaries for the drill.
“This case is against upholding and reinforcing the Japan-U.S. alliance,” Kono told reporters on the evening of Oct. 29. He indicated that he would discuss the matter with high-ranking U.S. officials.
Around 6:30 p.m. after sunset, U.S. military personnel jumped from aircraft and parachuted to the ground at the Kadena base of the U.S. Air Force.
The Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) reached an agreement in 1996 in its final report that said the U.S. military would carry out parachuting drills only at its Iejima Auxiliary Airfield in Ie village on Iejima island in the northern part of the prefecture.
However, according to the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau, since 2000, when the parachute drop drill was relocated to the Iejima airfield, U.S. forces have conducted such drills at the Kadena base 11 times, including the latest one.
The Oct. 29 drill was the fourth one at Kadena this year, a record high. In 2017, the U.S. military carried out the drill three times at the base.
Earlier on Oct. 29, Kono said the central government had urged the U.S. government to stop conducting the drill at Kadena.
“This is against the SACO agreement and not acceptable at all,” Kono said at a news conference held after a Cabinet meeting.
The Okinawa prefectural government and local municipalities had also asked U.S. forces to stop their parachute drops at the base, but the military rejected the request.
U.S. forces also carried out a parachuting drill on Iejima island on the afternoon of Oct. 29.
“Nighttime drills are dangerous and unacceptable,” Kadena Mayor Hiroshi Toyama said. “There is no validity in carrying out such a drill at Kadena.”
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