• Kyodo

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U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture began live-fire drills Thursday at an artillery range in Oita Prefecture, amid protests from local residents.

Several local residents said they will monitor the exercises from a cabin they have set up on a hill in the town of Kusu, Oita Prefecture, overlooking the Hijudai range. The live-fire exercises are scheduled to run for eight days until Feb. 20 and will include night training until 9 p.m., U.S. military officials said.

Japan and the United States agreed in 1996 to relocate all live-fire drills from Okinawa to five ranges in mainland Japan on a rotating basis, in order to reduce the burden of the concentrated U.S. military presence in Okinawa. It is the third time since 1999 that the exercises have been conducted at the Hijudai range, and U.S. military officials said live-fire drills will next be held there in February 2002.

Ryuji Urata, 37, the owner of a local liquor shop, said, “It is just as people had feared most — that we will have to get accustomed to such exercises that seem to be conducted regularly.

“We cannot just get used to it and give up.”

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