• Kyodo

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The U.S. military in Okinawa signed an agreement Tuesday with the city of Urasoe to allow municipal fire engines and ambulances to pass through a U.S. base in the city during emergencies.

Urasoe Mayor Mitsuo Gima and Brig. Gen. Willie Williams sign an agreement.

Urasoe Mayor Mitsuo Gima and Brig. Gen. Willie Williams, commander of U.S. forces in Okinawa, signed an agreement allowing vehicles to pass through the U.S. Makiminato Service Area in the coastal part of the city.

The agreement was the first of its kind to be signed after Japan and the United States agreed on the issue at the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee in January.

The agreement allows registered vehicles to pass through the 275-hectare base — which occupies almost all of the coastal part of the city — in cases of emergency. The city, however, must report to military authorities before entering the base.

U.S. bases, which take up 20 percent of Okinawa Prefecture, obstruct local traffic networks and force emergency vehicles to take detours.

Japan and the U.S. have been discussing the issue since Okinawa cities that host U.S. bases pointed out that transit of emergency vehicles should be permitted when lives are at stake.

Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine said on the day that he hopes similar talks between nine other municipalities in the prefecture and the U.S. military will come to an agreement as early as possible.

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