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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is distributing pamphlets extolling the safety of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered warships in an effort to stem local concerns as the USS George Washington nears its 2008 planned arrival at Yokosuka Naval Base.

The aircraft carrier is to replace the conventionally-powered USS Kitty Hawk, the oldest ship in the Navy fleet.

MOFA made 30,000 copies of the pamphlet and started distributing them Nov. 15 throughout Japan, including in Yokosuka, Sasebo and Okinawa where Navy nuclear vessels visit, said MOFA Status Of Forces Agreement division official Yuki Tanaka.

Tanaka said the pamphlet tries to alleviate concerns people might have about nuclear-powered ships.

“We hope [the pamphlet] will help in gaining understanding from the people,” Tanaka said.

With illustrations and charts, the 12-page pamphlet answers six questions such as, “What kind of ships are U.S. Navy’s nuclear ships?” “Is it true that nuclear ships are safe and strong?” and “Is it true that there have not been any accidents with the nuclear reactor?”

The pamphlet also has a message from Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso explaining the necessity of the ships and his confidence in them.

The pamphlet is the second nuclear warship safety-related dispatch. The first was a U.S. government “fact sheet” put out earlier this year. Both address local concerns about safety that have given rise to citizens’ group efforts opposing the George Washington’s arrival.

A petition drive is ongoing in Yokosuka through Dec. 10 to put the issue before voters in a nonbinding referendum. The group has one month to collect the signatures of one-fiftieth of Yokosuka city’s eligible voting population (about 7,200 names) to request a municipal plebiscite.

The Navy hopes the pamphlets will “help dismiss the myths” being put out to the public by various groups with regards to the safety of the new carrier, said Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan spokesman Cmdr. David Waterman.

An electronic copy of the pamphlet (only in Japanese) is available on the MOFA Web site at

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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