The Governor of Okinawa Prefecture and mayors of Okinawa City, Kadena Town and Chatan Town, which are the local municipalities where Kadena Air Base is located, lodged a strong protest against a series of operations by the U.S. Forces concerning Kadena Air Base. On July 7, 2017, they made a request to the Minister of Defense and Minister of Foreign Affairs to discuss with the U.S. government 1) regarding the prohibition of use of aircraft at the former Navy apron at Kadena Air Base and 2) halting parachuting training.
Concerning Kadena Air Base, there have been a series of operations by the U.S. Forces such as the use of a former Navy apron, carrying out parachute training and continuous military aircraft flyovers. We believe such operations violate the intent of the SACO final report that aims to reduce our base hosting burden. We, Okinawa Prefecture and local municipalities, cannot accept such a situation.
The relocation of the former Navy apron was agreed upon based on the SACO final report, and as a result it was put into practice in January 2017. However, it has been used by KC-135 and U-2 aircraft in February and May, respectively. Such acts by the U.S. Forces disregard the intent of the noise reduction initiative in the SACO final report. Local residents have been suffering from base-hosting burdens such as noise pollution, gas emissions, and unpleasant odors. We have no choice but to say the current situation at Kadena Air Base runs counter to the expectations of Okinawan residents who believed the relocation would reduce such burdens. We, therefore, cannot contain our anger.
Although the parachute drop training should be conducted only at Ie jima Auxiliary Airfield in accordance with the SACO final report agreed at the Japan-U.S. Committee, it was confirmed at the committee in 2007 that Kadena Air Base can be used for training on “special occasions”. However, such drills were conducted consecutively in April and May. In addition, another drill was planned in June, which was cancelled due to bad weather conditions. Local residents are concerned that the U.S. Forces will continue such training on a regular basis.
Regarding parachuting drills at Kadena Air Base, which cause anxiety among our people, especially those in the surrounding communities and could possibly harm those who live in the vicinity of the base and their properties, such drills were forcibly conducted in defiance of repeated protests by the local municipalities, Okinawa Prefectural Government, and Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, which run counter to the reduction of our base-hosting burden and are totally incomprehensible. Parachuting drills should be conducted in accordance with the intent of SACO Final Report, without exception.
We are concerned that such acts by the U.S. Forces not only turn the SACO agreement into a mere shell and undermine the relationship of trust with local communities, but also impact the use of Kadena Air Base and moreover damage the security arrangement in Japan.
Therefore, we request the U.S. Forces to take the following measures in order to reduce the base-hosting burden of Okinawa.
To discuss the following requests from local communities with the U.S. government at Japan-U.S. Security Joint Committee.
① To prohibit the use of aircraft at the former Navy apron at Kadena Air Base
② To stop parachuting training at Kadena Air Base
※ The change of command ceremony of the 18th Aircraft Wing, the host wing of Kadena Air Base, was held on July 10; however following a series of operations by the U.S. Forces concerning Kadena Air Base, the governor and the three local mayors expressed their protest and did not attend the ceremony.