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KIN, Okinawa — Some residents of this town adjoining Camp Hansen are unhappy that activity at a controversial urban warfare training area on the base will continue until mid-2009.

“Residents were shocked and upset to learn that their suffering will go on another year and half,” said Masafumi Ikehara, district mayor of Igei, the closest community to the combat complex.

The Range 4 complex, which cost $3.8 million, opened in July 2005. After a year of protests that it was too close to residential neighborhoods, the Japanese government agreed to build a replacement facility near Camp Hansen’s Range 16. The new facility was scheduled to open in March.

But construction of the new urban warfare complex required the military to move training to other areas of Camp Hansen, making it impossible to complete the new facility on time, a Japan Defense Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

“The bureau initially planned to start building three replacement facilities at the same time,” said Morimasa Ganekothe, spokesman for the ministry’s Naha Bureau. But the Army and Marines could not halt training in all three areas at the same time, he said.

“There is a problem in securing safety of workers while continuing military training operations,” he said. “Continued training at the existing range is indispensable for the military to achieve the purposes of U.S., Japan Security Treaty.”

The completion date of the replacement complex has been pushed back to mid-2009, he said.

“The change in the completion date upsets the local community,” said a town spokesman. He said Kin Mayor Tsuyoshi Gibu will file a protest with the defense bureau.

“Why did U.S. and Japanese governments make such an empty promise?” the town spokesman said. “The military knew that they were not going to stop training while replacement facilities are being built. How on Earth did they come up with the completion date of March?”

“We put up with the vibrations and noise caused by the training for the past two and a half years only because we believed in the words given by the military and Japanese government,” Ikehara said. “Now, we want the training be stopped by March as promised.”

In July 2005, thousands of local residents and their supporters demonstrated against the Army Special Forces facility. They claimed the complex was too close to a residential area in Igei, about 328 yards away.


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