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Okinawans stage sit-in protest against construction of U.S. helipads


   In disregard of residentsf protests, the Defense Facilities Administration Agency (DFAA) on July 3 began constructing helipads in the U.S. Marine Corps Northern Training Area in Okinawa.


   Residents staged a sit-in protest outside the perimeter fence, chanting, gNo helipads! Donft destroy our living environment!h


   The construction works started around five ofclock in the morning. A 45-year-old protester said, gWithout giving us any explanation, they began the work when we were sleeping. I am indignant at their arrogance.h He said he will put up tents for protesters to get rest in order to carry out a long struggle.


   In the 1996 agreement of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO), the U.S. forces promised to return half of the 7,500-hectare Northern Training Area site located in the forest of northern Okinawa. At the same time, the U.S. requested Japan to construct six helipads in areas extending over Higashi and Kunigami villages to relocate seven helipads located in the area it promised to return.


The neighborhood association of the Takae district in Higashi Village, which will be surrounded by helipads if they are built, twice adopted resolutions in opposition to the helipads construction.


   Takae district chair Nakamine Takeo was enraged by the government policy of starting the construction work and ignoring residentsf anxieties. gThe government is acting as if it is giving us a lesson that it will forcibly carry out under any circumstance whatever is necessary for military purposes. It is very upsetting.h


Furugen Muneyoshi, Japanese Communist Party Okinawa Prefectural Committee secretary, said, gWhen the struggle against the construction of a new U.S. base in Henoko District first began, only seven people took part. But it spread nationwide and developed into the 10-year strong movement,h stressing that the movement in Takae has made an important first step in confronting further militarization.                             - Akahata, July 4, 2007


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