New site for Okinawa urban warfare complex chosen
September 18, 2005
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — It’s official: A new live-fire training site on a more isolated part of Camp Hansen will replace the Army’s new $3.8 million urban warfare complex.
After more than a year of local protests claiming the new complex, which opened in July, was too close to residential neighborhoods, the United States and Japan agreed Thursday to build a newer complex near Hansen’s Range 16.
Japan will foot the bill for the new one.
Local officials praised the agreement but criticized U.S. plans to use the current complex until its replacement is built.
The Japanese government announced in April that it would build the new facility, which is farther from the local community, but U.S. Forces Japan officials said in July that they had yet to make a formal agreement.
Thursday’s announcement of the agreement was made in Tokyo after a meeting of the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee.
“Taking into account the concerns expressed by the Okinawa Prefectural Government, Kin Town and others, the government of Japan and the United States government agreed … that the government of Japan will construct a replacement facility for the Army Training Range Complex,” said Air Force Capt. Richelle Dowdell, a USFJ spokeswoman.
A joint news release from the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense Facilities Administration Agency said construction on the new complex would begin “as soon as possible.”
“We exchanged various ideas,” the release stated. “All parties agreed that the move would respond to the demand of the local community.”
But Kin’s Igei community will have to wait a bit for satisfaction. Until the replacement is up and running, the Range 4 complex will remain open.
“It is necessary for the military to conduct training at Range 4 until a replacement facility is completed,” said the statement, which also contained a promise that the U.S. military “would give consideration to the concerns of residents and keep the training to a minimum and limited to maintain the readiness of the troops while expending all possible means to ensure safety.”
Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine welcomed Thursday’s announcement.
“The agreement … is desirable because it responds to the demand of the local community,” he said. “We ask the governments to ensure that the facility is moved as early as possible to alleviate the fears among residents.”
But, he added, “We do not accept the training at Range 4, even if it is temporary. We demand cessation of the training.”