U.S. NLP conducted despite surrounding cities' protests

The U.S. Atsugi Naval Air Station in Kanagawa Prefecture on January 18 resumed night-landing practices (NPL) and touch-and-goes with the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. From 6 p.m., E-2C early-warning aircraft repeated touch-and-go exercises, causing a great amount of noise.

Protests calling for a halt to the NLP by the Japanese Communist Party and seven municipalities near the base as well as the prefectural government were completely ignored by the U.S. forces.

The U.S. forces explained that they needed to resume the NLP in preparation for disaster relief activities in the tsunami-hit regions off the coast of Sumatra Island, Indonesia.

However, U.S. Atsugi base public affairs officials said to JCP protesters, "Without carrier-based aircraft, we cannot respond quickly to emergencies," thus revealing that this NLP has nothing to do with the disaster relief.

The NLP at the Atsugi base began after a six-month interval of relative peace and will continue until January 23.

Peace activists, including JCP local assembly members, staged a protest near the north end of the runway.

Prior to the NLP, the Kanagawa Prefectural office and the surrounding city offices of Atsugi, Yamato, Ayase, Fujisawa, Sagamihara, Zama, and Ebina had made representations to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the U.S. Forces in Japan, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the cancellation of the NLP. An association of chairmen of five city assemblies near the base had also demanded that all NLPs be conducted on the Iwojima islands in the Pacific because the U.S. low-altitude flights scheduled to take place even on Saturdays and Sundays will disturb local residents, including examinees who study hard for approaching entrance exams to colleges or high schools. (end)

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