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Pacific edition, Wednesday, July 25, 2007

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Okinawa officials are upset about Marine armored vehicles that made sudden appearances at a local market in Ginoza and a school for disabled students last week.

At 5:45 p.m. last Wednesday, seven Marine light armored vehicles, known as LAVs, made “brief, routine maintenance stops” at the Mirai Ginoza shopping center off Highway 329, according to a spokesman for Marine Corps Bases Japan.

About an hour earlier, one of the LAVs made a wrong turn into the parking lot of the Okinawa High School for the Disabled off Highway 224, startling a group of students in a nearby athletic field. It promptly turned around and rejoined the convoy.

School principal Yasuo Shiohama said he has requested the military to be more sensitive and take steps to prevent a recurrence.

“Light Armored Vehicles are authorized for use on road surfaces, and brief maintenance/safety stops are part of routine, standard operating procedures,” Marine 1st Lt. Garron Garn noted in a press release. “There was no disruption to normal traffic flow, and the stop posed no danger to members of the community.

“The safety stops lasted no more than five minutes. The U.S. Marine Corps considers the safety of the local community and its Marines one of its highest priorities, and we regret any anxiety this may have caused.”

Tsuneo Chinen, the mayor of Uruma, where the school is located, said he will file a protest with the U.S. military, the U.S. Consulate in Naha, the Defense Facilities Administration Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Okinawa.

A spokesman for the DFAA said the agency filed a request on Friday for the Marine Corps to take measures to prevent a recurrence.

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima said the schoolyard stop “lacked any common sense.”

“It is something that absolutely should not happen,” Nakaima told reporters during a press conference on Friday. “It is an abyss of thoughtlessness.”


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