|Kagoshima isle tabbed as new site for carrier landing practice
The Defense Ministry formally announced Wednesday that it is considering relocating U.S. carrier aircraft landing drills from Iwojima to an uninhabited island in Kagoshima Prefecture.
During talks in Kagoshima, Katsuya Ogawa, senior vice defense minister, told Gov. Yuichiro Ito that the central government has chosen Mage Island, administered by the city of Nishinoomote, as the candidate drill site.
The move would be part of a bilateral plan to reconfigure the U.S. military in Japan.
Ito expressed caution about the move, citing strong opposition from Nishinoomote and three nearby municipalities and saying he will deal with the matter in line with residents' wishes.
Senior Defense Ministry officials will visit the area soon to explain the plan in detail to the local governments.
Field carrier landing practice is being conducted provisionally on Iwojima, now officially known as Iwoto and administered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, under the bilateral realignment plan, though a permanent location was to have been picked by 2009.
Ogawa told Ito the ministry plans to build a Self-Defense Forces facility on Mage and conduct the drills as part of its efforts to boost security around Okinawa's Nansei Islands, which are near China and Taiwan.
He said the island is the candidate site because it is uninhabited and is big enough for the drills, while promising that the noise level on nearby Tanegashima Island would be low and the drills would be held no more than two to three times a year.
Mage is about 12 km west of Tanegashima.
The proposed relocation is associated with the transfer of the aircraft from the U.S. base in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, to the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, by 2014, as agreed upon under a 2006 bilateral accord.
The Japan Times: Thursday, June 9, 2011
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