FUKUOKA – Although the heads of local governments around the Air Self-Defense Force Tsuiki Air Base in Fukuoka Prefecture have withdrawn their objections to the facility hosting U.S. fighter drills in line with a May Japan-U.S. accord, citizens are strongly opposed and vow to take action.
The heads of the city of Yukuhashi and the towns of Miyako and Chikujo agreed to go along with the plans outlined in the May Japan-U.S. accord on military realignment, but want the state to compensate their communities in return for their support.
“We want compensation equal to that for a nuclear power plant,” Chikujo Mayor Hisami Arakawa said.
Yukuhashi Mayor Koichi Yatsunami said he is trying to get the support of the community for negotiations with the state.
“As a person responsible for the administration, I have to make a judgment,” he said, referring to the decision to concede to the plans.
However, Yukuhashi residents are not so easily sold.
“Our feelings remain unshaken,” said Tatsuo Ikeda, the 77-year-old head of a group representing the communities in Yukuhashi, at a July 21 meeting held by the municipal government. He was repeating the group’s firm opposition to allowing the U.S. military to use the base, which he made public two months earlier.
“If the U.S. military comes, is it going to fly planes over houses?” Ikeda asked.
“We have fully cooperated with the Air Self-Defense Force. If things go on at this rate, we will want the Air Self-Defense Force to leave.”
The Tsuiki base was constructed to serve as an airfield for the Imperial Japanese forces during the war. It was used by the U.S. military after the war and, in 1957, was handed over to the Self-Defense Forces.
According to Satoru Ampi, 69, community leader of Yukuhashi’s Matsubara district, which is right next to the base, citizens were forcibly moved to make way for the base before the war.
After the war, the noise from the base was so great that it forced people living nearby to move. Where there were once about 200 households, there are now only two dozen or so.
In 2004, the ASDF brought F-2 fighters to the base.
“The noise is becoming worse year after year. If the U.S. military comes, whole villages will disappear,” Ampi said. “I saw the crashes of two U.S. planes before. There were many U.S. soldiers, and drunken soldiers would come up to houses. The atmosphere was bad.”
To dispel unrest among the citizens, the Fukuoka Defense Facilities Administration Bureau proposed measures that include having SDF members escort U.S. service members when they go off the base.
“That will not work. Promises are cheap,” Ikeda said. “In Okinawa, U.S. soldiers are committing crimes.”
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