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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Plans to replace the U.S. Navy’s conventionally powered USS Kitty Hawk with the nuclear-propelled USS George Washington drew mixed reviews at a two-hour listening session Thursday in Yokosuka city, according to Japanese media reports.

It was the second session of its kind hosted by Yokosuka Mayor Ryoichi Kabaya since last fall’s joint U.S.-Japan announcement that the George Washington would arrive in Yokosuka in 2008.

Only 49 people spoke during the hearing, though more than 770 applications were turned in before the event. Speakers were chosen by lottery.

Kanagawa Shimbun reported that 27 people approved of the carrier, 14 people opposed it and eight people made other comments during the hearing. Those approving pointed to the Japan-U.S. Security Agreement and the importance of a carrier for Japan’s protection and local economy. The opposition questioned the safety of a nuclear carrier and some expressed distrust of the U.S. military, the newspaper said.

But the meeting’s purpose was not to count votes, said Yokosuka city’s military base division chief, Takehito Akimoto.

“The purpose of the hearing was for the mayor to listen to opinions,” Akimoto said.

The city has unanimously passed resolutions opposing a nuclear-powered carrier three times. Akimoto said there is no time line on when the mayor will make a decision toward any action on the issue or whether more hearings will take place.

There were no U.S. Navy representatives at the meeting, but the military supports Kabaya’s efforts, said Commander, Naval Forces Japan spokesman Cmdr. John Wallach.

“We think this is an important and forward-leaning step for the city to take,” Wallach said. “We think it’s good to hold events like these where the public can talk about the issue.”

Yokosuka became the first, and only, place outside the United States to host a carrier when the USS Midway arrived at Yokosuka Naval Base in 1973. Its replacement, the USS Independence, arrived in 1991. The Independence has since been replaced by the USS Kitty Hawk, now the oldest ship in the Navy.

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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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