(Akahata is published by the Communist Party of Japan)
The organization administering land for U.S. military use in the Igei District of Kin Town, Okinawa, on March 22 unanimously decided not to renew the land-lease agreement with the U.S. forces after April 2010. The move was prompted by the irresponsible Japanese and U.S. action regarding the recent stray bullet shot off base from the firing range of U.S. forces.

It is the first time since its establishment in 1986 that the organization, which is in charge of land in seven zones (about 326,000 square meters) in U.S. Camp Hansen, rejected a renewal of the lease contract.

The organization has criticized the Japanese and U.S. governments for their irresponsible attitudes toward the misfire incident that occurred late last year during U.S. live-fire training exercises. A bullet from the exercise hit a civilian car in a private residence in the Igei District.

U.S. Camp Hansen, extending just a few hundreds meters north of the residential area of the district, has 13 live-firing ranges, including five that are right next to the district.

The organization explained that the removal of the U.S. base is the only way to secure the safety of the residents and their properties in such a dangerous environment.

In a resolution adopted during their March 1 rally, Igei residents also demanded an immediate suspension of all live-fire exercises in Camp Hansen and a swift removal of all live-firing ranges.

Prior to this, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly had unanimously adopted a resolution calling for an immediate halt to the live-fire exercises and sending a letter of protest to the Japanese government.

Igei residents have been affected by stray bullet incidents from U.S. forces repeatedly. In one case, a 3-year-old kid was wounded while playing in the front yard of a home. In another, a stray bullet inflicted severe wounds on a 19-year-old girl in her home. There was also a case in which a bullet penetrated a water tank of a private residence.

However, the U.S. forces have never admitted that these were caused by U.S. bullets although there are many such victims of stray bullets, because admitting it will mean that the U.S. forces themselves admit the danger of their military bases. Thus, on the grounds that it is still unknown whether those were U.S. bullets or not, the U.S. forces keep on conducting their live-fire exercises.

– Akahata, March 24, 2009