Marine drills spark Oita protest

Kyodo News

U.S. Marines from Okinawa Prefecture started live-fire drills Monday at an artillery range in Oita Prefecture, the Kyushu Defense Bureau said, while local residents staged a protest.

Around 160 Marines are participating in the eighth training exercise, taking place for the second consecutive year, at the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Hijudai range.

Local Net Oita Hijudai, a civic group protesting against the drills, has set up a cabin to watch the Marine Corps, with Ryuji Urata, secretary general of the civic group, saying, “We feel sad whenever we hear the sound of shooting. We would like to continue to monitor the exercises.”

The drills will be open to the press and local residents on Wednesday.

The Marine Corps units based in Okinawa began conducting live-fire artillery drills outside the prefecture in 1997 to lessen the burden on Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan.