• Kyodo

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The mayors of two Hiroshima Prefecture towns that are currently discussing a possible merger with a town that wants to host U.S. military exercises said Friday they oppose the idea.

On Thursday, the mayor of Okimi said he wants to offer Okurokami Island, an uninhabited island in the Seto Inland Sea, as a new site for nighttime landings by U.S. warplanes from the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. The exercises have been criticized for being too noisy at their current venue, the Atsugi air base in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Okimi is currently studying the feasibility of merging with the towns of Ogaki, Etajima and Nomi.

However, Ogaki Mayor Takeshi Hiraguchi and Etajima Mayor Shigemi Hiraki visited Hiroshima Gov. Yuzan Fujita on Friday to hand over a petition saying they oppose the relocation of the exercises to the island.

The mayors said that if the mountains of the island are pulled down to construct a runway “it will increase the damage from high winds from typhoons.” They also said it could undermine the safety of vessels that pass near the island, which is located along major shipping routes.

Fujita reiterated his opposition, pointing out that the matter concerns other prefectures as well, and that he fears it would only further congest airspace over the Seto Inland Sea.

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