Marines’ artillery drill relocation mapped out

Japan and the U.S. officially decided June 16 that the U.S. Marine Corps will discontinue live artillery drills over Highway 104 in Okinawa Prefecture, a senior Japanese defense official said.

The Japan-U.S. Joint Committee made the decision and endorsed a relocation schedule drawn up by a subcommittee that studied the issue. The two governments agreed last August to relocate the firing practice to five Ground Self-Defense Force’s facilities elsewhere in Japan.

According to the schedule in this fiscal year, the marines will hold their practices at Kitafuji, Yamanashi Prefecture, in July; Yausubetsu, Hokkaido, in September; Ojojihara, Miyagi Prefecture, in November; and Higashifuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, in February. The GSDF facility in Hijudai, Oita Prefecture, was ruled out for this year since Washington and Tokyo agreed that the drills will be conducted up to four times a year, for a total of 35 days and with a maximum of 10 days per site.

The drills will be conducted by up to 300 Okinawa-based marines who will mobilize 12 pieces of artillery and some 60 vehicles, and receive backup from troop units, the senior defense official said. The Defense Facilities Administration Agency will provide financial and other support to the United States for the relocation, the official said. The official expressed gratitude for the decision and said live artillery drills will not be held on Okinawa “except in a case of crisis.”