• Kyodo

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Japan plans to purchase an uninhabited Kagoshima Prefecture island for potential use for U.S. military aircraft carrier landing practice, a government source has said.

The government wants to purchase Mage Island, which is administered by the city of Nishinoomote, for training exercises, including those involving the Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft currently deployed to a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa, the source revealed Friday.

Mage is also a candidate for the location of a Self-Defense Force base that will be involved in disaster preparedness.

The move to transfer the drills is part of the central government’s efforts to reduce the base-hosting burden of Okinawa, where the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan are concentrated.

The relocation of such drills is linked to the transfer of U.S. carrier-borne fighter jets from the U.S. Navy’s Atsugi base in Kanagawa Prefecture to a base in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, by 2017.

Japan has been looking into the transfer of the carrier landing practice site from its present location on Iwoto Island, 1,200 kilometers south of Tokyo. The government is currently negotiating with landowners there.

In a step toward the acquisition of the 8-square-kilometer island, located 12 kilometers west of Tanegashima Island, the Defense Ministry opened the process for property appraisal on Friday.

The ministry hopes to finalize the acquisition cost, which is estimated at several billion yen, after the appraisal is finished by the end of March, the source said.

On Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a news conference that Mage is a potential site for landing drills to bolster defense around Japan’s southwestern region.

An official of the Tokyo-based development company that owns most of the land declined to comment as a possible deal is currently being negotiated.

The island was selected as a training site in 2007, but the plan was abandoned due to local government opposition.

“What is important more than anything is the desire of local residents. There is a need for the state, first and foremost, to provide sufficient, in-depth explanation” about the drills, Kagoshima Gov. Satoshi Mitazono said in a statement.

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