On March 11, the Ministry of Defense decided to raise at the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee the live-fire exercises held by Okinawa-based U.S. Marines at the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) Hijudai Maneuver Area. Residents living near the GSDF facility in Oita Prefecture have been protesting that the live-fire exercises continue beyond the designated finishing time of 8 p.m. and that the exercises are held on more days than scheduled.
At a press conference on March 10, Defense Minister Taro Kono said, “This needs to be discussed, including the question of what to do in the future.”
Live-fire exercises are held at the Hijudai Maneuver Area as part of measures to lighten Okinawa’s burden of hosting U.S. military bases. The Marines held nighttime shellfire exercises that local governments had asked them to refrain from, and moreover they held the exercises in excess of the agreed-upon eight days during the exercise period of Feb. 12–21. Oita Governor Katsusada Hirose said, “Through these actions, the U.S. military is taking the relationship of trust it shares with the local community and destroying it from its very foundations.”
The Kyushu Defense Bureau has exchanged written confirmation with local governments, including Yufu City, that shellfire will end at 8 p.m.