• Kyodo

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A facility modeled on the Ground Self-Defense Force camp in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah will be built at the GSDF’s training site in Yamanashi Prefecture to practice fending off attacks.

The envisioned drills will be held at the facility in the GSDF’s Kitafuji training ground. Japan has deployed a GSDF contingent of 550 troops to help rebuild Iraq.

But locals have said the government has failed to give them a sufficient explanation.

Four citizens’ groups visited the Yamanashi Prefectural Government on Thursday, demanding a halt to the planned construction of the training site.

In a letter to Yamanashi Gov. Takahiko Yamamoto, the groups said sending SDF troops to Iraq means taking part in the “unjustifiable” war in Iraq. They said Yamanashi citizens could become terrorist targets.

The facility will be created on the 60-hectare Nashigahara site within the training ground. The site can accommodate up to 900 people.

Construction is expected to begin soon and will last about two months.

The Yamanashi Prefectural Government said that officials from the Defense Facilities Administration Agency met with local government officials March 23 to explain the matter and seek their acceptance.

The Defense Facilities Administration Agency, an organization under the Defense Agency, is tasked with administering land and buildings for use by the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. forces in Japan.

The drill is aimed at testing the effectiveness of security in Samawah. No live shells or training ammunition will be used, prefectural officials said.

Agency officials said the Kitafuji training ground has the only training center in Japan where simulated combat exercises can be conducted.

The Defense Facilities Administration Agency has said that details of the training exercises cannot be disclosed for security reasons.

Kazumasa Kitta, head of the prefectural government’s office in charge of affairs concerning the Kitafuji training ground, said they cannot oppose the drill if it can only be conducted in Kitafuji and is for the benefit of SDF troops.

Iraqi cultural assets

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi told the visiting director of the National Museum of Iraq on Thursday that Japan will continue to help restore the country’s cultural assets that were damaged or looted during and after the U.S.-led war against the country, ministry officials said.

Donny George expressed his appreciation and called for ongoing assistance.

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