• Kyodo

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The commander of the U.S. Navy in Japan hinted Monday at the possibility of building a huge floating facility as an alternative site for night-landing practice currently held at the Atsugi Naval Air Facility in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The navy is “looking for an airfield” within 185 km of the joint-use Atsugi base and is “continuing to look at a working technology,” Rear Adm. Robert Chaplin told reporters at the Pentagon.

Chaplin said the navy is considering several options, including the possibility that “something will be built at sea.”

The navy has yet to choose a location for the possible “megafloat” facility, he said.

Night-landing practice at Atsugi has drawn strong opposition from residents due to the noise.

The navy conducts some of its exercises on Iwojima Island, more than 1,000 km south of Tokyo, but has rejected using it for all night-landing drills.

because it is too far from Atsugi.

Japan and the U.S. have been considering building an alternate facility for the drills.

Chaplin also said the U.S. Navy has no plans to shift to Okinawa the bombing exercises held on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

President George W. Bush announced Thursday that the unpopular naval bombing exercises on Vieques would end in 2003.

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