Patriot missile gear arrives on Okinawa
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The first shipment of equipment for the hotly protested Patriot missile system has arrived on Okinawa.
About 360 pieces of equipment and vehicles for the system were unloaded at the Naha Military Port on Saturday and are being transported to Kadena Air Base this week, officials said Monday.
Army personnel, who will handle the daily administration of the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles, are trucking the equipment along Highway 58 between midnight and 5 a.m., according to Kadena spokeswoman Maj. Dani Johnson.
About a quarter of it was moved Sunday night, she said.
Another shipment with the remaining equipment is expected in by the end of the week.
Half of the 600 soldiers relocating to Okinawa to operate the system are already on the island with more coming about every week, Johnson said.
The missile defense system is expected to be operational within the next six months, she said.
The deployment of the 24 Patriot missiles is a part of the broad U.S. troop realignment agreement that Japan and the United States signed May 1.
A small group of Okinawan protesters were on hand outside the Naha Military Port gates over the weekend.
Local leaders have been opposed to the move since speculation started this summer about where in Japan the missiles would be located. Both governments announced in August that Kadena would house the system.
Monday afternoon, Okinawa City Mayor Mitsuko Tomon filed follow-up letters of protest with the Naha bureau of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency and U.S. Forces Japan.
“Since both governments reached an agreement on the realignment of U.S. Forces Japan, they have advanced with their military-first policy by forcibly installing the missile system while ignoring our repeated requests to provide the local communities with adequate information on the system,” she wrote in the letter.
Kadena Town Mayor Tokujitsu Miyagi also reiterated his stance against the missile system.
“Central government promised us to reduce the burden of local communities through the realignment. Yet what is taking place is an increase of the burden,” he said.
In the realignment plan, Tokyo and Washington agreed to move Air Force F-15 jet fighter training from Kadena to Japanese bases on the mainland.
“Before the move becomes reality, the deployment of missile system goes ahead and is about to take place. This is where our frustration is,” he said.
Johnson could not be reached after hours Monday for comment on specific criticisms of the two Okinawan leaders.
Earlier in the day she said that “in a free and democratic country people have the right to protest. The PAC-3 is being moved by a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Japanese governments.”