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Okinawans block U.S. helipads construction


   Local residentsf strong protest on August 23 forced the Naha Defense Facilities Administration Bureau to stop its construction work for helipads in the U.S. Marine Corps Northern Training Area in Okinawa.


   At 9:30 a.m., about 30 bureau staff and construction workers began carrying construction materials to the site. Twenty residents and activists who were on a 24 hour watch immediately protested.


   Onishi Teruo, co-representative of the Nago Council against the Construction of U.S. On-Sea Heliport, took the microphone and said, gWe will never allow the destruction of Yanbarufs (northern Okinawa) rich natural environment by the construction of military bases.h At 11:30 a.m., the bureau decided to suspend its work.


   In the 1996 agreement of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO), the U.S. promised to return half of the Northern Training Area. At the same time, the agreement required Japan to construct six helipads as alternative facilities for the seven helipads located in the area it promised to return.


   The six helipads are planned to be constructed surrounding the Takae district of Higashi Village. Residents strongly oppose the construction plan since it will destroy their quality of living and natural environment and strengthen the U.S. base functions in Okinawa.                     - Akahata, August 24, 2007




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