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HOME  > Past issues  > 2011 June 15 - 21  > Mageshima Island must not be turned into base for landing practice
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2011 June 15 - 21 [POLITICS]

Mageshima Island must not be turned into base for landing practice

June 18, 2011
Editorial (excerpts)

Before the Japan-U.S. security committee talks (2+2) to be held on June 21, such issues as deploying vertically takeoff and landing Osprey aircraft to the U.S. Futenma base, constructing a new base at Henoko off Nago City in Okinawa, and exporting U.S.-Japan developed interceptor missiles are undergoing rapid developments.

These moves include a government plan to make Mage Island, 12 km from Nishinoomote City in Kagoshima Prefecture, a base for landing and takeoff practice for carrier-borne U.S. military aircraft. The Defense Ministry has officially announced this to related municipalities.

US demands permanent training facilities

The Japan-U.S. Agreement of May 2006 concerning U.S. military realignment states that a permanent site for landing and takeoff training for carrier borne aircraft must be chosen as early as possible due to the transfer of carrier borne aircraft units from Atsugi base in Kanagawa to Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi. Citing this agreement, the United States urged Japan to promptly offer a replacement site, and the Defense Ministry hastily chose Mage Island off Tanegashima.

Landing and takeoff exercises including night landing practices (NLP) by carrier-borne aircraft entail severe noise day and night. Their low-altitude flights and possibility of crashes or other serious accidents will bring threats to the surrounding municipalities and their residents.

If the government thinks that choosing Mage Island is no problem as the island is uninhabited, it is a gross mistake. About 32,000 people live in Nishinoomote City, Nakatane and Minamitane towns of Tanegashima, only 12 km from the island, and about 13,000 people live in Yakushima, 40 km from the island.

The high pitched roar of aircraft practicing landing and takeoff many times by repeatedly circling the base will have a huge negative impact on local residents. Tourism, forestry, agriculture, and fishery, which have a great stake in the area, will suffer.

The Defense Ministry has explained to residents that each exercise will last for about 10 days and that there will be three exercises a year. However, a month of restful sleep at night and pleasant conversations during the day will be taken away from the residents. No wonder that they are enraged by the government saying that they should be able to endure the noise for just 30 days a year.

The opposition movement against the transfer of the U.S. base to Mage Island has been growing, with an association made up of Nishinoomote City and three towns’ residents at the core of the movement. The Defense Ministry’s announcement to the related municipalities just before the scheduled 2+2 meeting reveals the Kan Cabinet’s intent to warmly respond to the U.S request. Residents’ quality of life must not be sacrificed for such partisan interests.

The landing and takeoff practice exercises by carrier-borne aircraft, including NLPs, have caused much suffering to residents near the Atsugi base. Relocating the exercises from one place to another must stop. The Japanese government must ban the extraordinary training exercises which are not allowed in the United States, and not meekly provide another site for the exercises.
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