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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 December 23 - 2009 January 6  > Government should respond to residents’ fear of stray bullets from nearby U.S. military shooting range
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2008 December 23 - 2009 January 6 [OKINAWA]

Government should respond to residents’ fear of stray bullets from nearby U.S. military shooting range

December 23, 2008
Akahata editorial

A stray bullet, apparently from a nearby firing range of U.S. forces, was found lodged in a license plate of a car parked in the garage of a house near U.S. Marine Corps Camp Hansen in Kin Town, Okinawa. A stray bullet was also found lying on the road in the same town.

This is such a serious incident that could have caused injuries or even death. It is natural for residents to voice their anger at the incident.

The Okinawa Prefecural Assembly on December 19 adopted a unanimous resolution demanding that the U.S. forces immediately halt live-fire exercises at U.S. Camp Hansen.

The Japanese government must support the Okinawans’ protest and force U.S. forces to stop the live-fire exercises in Okinawa, so that Okinawa can live in peace.

Danger persists

On December 13, a piece of metal that appears to be a bullet from a M2 rifle of the U.S. Marine Corps was found stuck in a car. The owner’s grandmother said that she was watering the plants near the garage, when she heard a bang and saw smoke rising from the front side of the car on the afternoon of December 10. The incident was very serious because if a car had not been there, she could have been hit by the bullet. The need now is to investigate the incident.

U.S. Marine Corps Camp Hansen is located within a few hundred meters north of Kin Town’s Igei district, and 13 firing ranges are located. Five of them are located close to the Igei district. Judging from the angles of their landing, those bullets obviously came from live-fire exercises at Camp Hansen.

Many residents say that bullets were fired from military rifles used by U.S. forces, not from gun such as hunting rifles that some residents own.

In the Igei district alone, there have been a number of incidents involving stray bullets from U.S. bases. A three-year-old girl was hit in her right thigh by a stray bullet while she was playing in the yard. A 19-year-old woman was shot in her thigh. Another stray bullet pierced the water tank of a house.

Despite these cases of damage from U.S. stray bullets, the U.S. Forces in Japan has never admitted that they were caused by shells fired by U.S. forces, because they want to avoid stating anything that would mean admitting how dangerous U.S. military bases are for nearby residents.

In the recent case, the U.S. Forces said it has not been proven that the bullet was fired by U.S. forces and they brazenly continued with their live-fire exercises. They are so arrogant as to ignore local residents’ demand that U.S. forces refrain from holding such drills until the facts are established.

The Japanese government is to blame for avoiding ordering a thorough investigation into the incident on the grounds that the U.S. side has not accepted responsibility. Such a weak-kneed attitude gives the U.S. forces tacit approval of continuing with the live-fire exercises. The Japanese government has in essence encouraged U.S. forces to become even more arrogant, resulting in such incidents being repeated over and over.

Japan must negotiate with U.S.

Since the government supports the U.S. live-fire exercises, it is impossible to convince the residents that it has been making all-out efforts to ensure their safety. It is possible for U.S. soldiers to fire way off target or for bullets to ricochet off rocks and hit civilian houses. Unless the government stops supporting the U.S. live-shell firing drills so close to residential areas further damages from stray bullets will take place.

The length of the U.S.M.C. Camp Hansen is about 13 kilometers from east to west and 4.2 kilometers from north to south. Practicing with machine guns that have a range of nearly 7 kilometers is too dangerous for nearby residents. These live-fire exercises must be stopped immediately in order to ensure the safety of nearby residents.

In order to remove their anxiety, the Japanese government must negotiate with the U.S. government to stop the U.S. live-shell firing exercises.
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