• Kyodo

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Japan will conduct environmental studies next week on soil at a U.S. military base in Okinawa where dozens of metal drums were found abandoned, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Friday.

“We will take appropriate measures in cooperation with the United States and the city of Ginowan,” which hosts part of U.S. Marine Corps Camp Foster, Onodera told a news conference.

Under the Status of Forces Agreement, Japan cannot enter U.S. bases to conduct environmental studies without permission.

It is rare for the United States to allow such an environmental inspection within a U.S. base not planned for return to Japan.

Officials from the ministry’s local bureau and Ginowan detected no unusual odor or color change in soil at the base when they conducted a visual inspection as part of cultural property research after gaining permission from the U.S. military, Onodera said.

No health problems have been reported by residents living around the base, which straddles Ginowan and other towns.

The Ginowan Municipal Government has called on the Defense Ministry to investigate the possible environmental impact after finding the abandoned drums at the base when looking for buried cultural properties.

Ginowan officials said Friday that even though some of the drums at the base were first found in October, it was not reported to the mayor until earlier this week.

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