U.S. holds largest live-fire exercise in Okinawa

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U.S. holds largest live-fire exercise in Okinawa

A live-fire exercise by the U.S. Marine Corps. On April 16th, the Ground Self-Defense Force Training Site, located in Hijiudai in Kusu, Oita Prefecture, gets under way. Ryuta Kuratomi KUSU, Oita Prefecture of the U.S. Marine Corps. One of its largest live-fire drills to date was held at a training ground in April 16, sparking further anxiety among local residents about the secrecy surrounding the annual shooting match.

About 320 U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture took part in the exercise. It is scheduled to last until April 27 at the Ground Self-Defense Force Hijiudai training site and involves the use of sophisticated weaponry such as surveillance drones and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System HIMARS for the first time.

It ranked among the largest drills held at the site, which straddles the municipalities of Yufuin, Kusu and Kokonoe in the prefecture.

The day started with the roar of artillery shells fired at 8: 43 a.m. that emitted white plumes of smoke, followed by even louder booms.

A local group monitoring the exercise expressed concern that the U.S. military seems more reluctant to reveal information about the event.

The exercise is hitting a new phase, with the use of the HIMARS and other equipment, but we local residents have been given very little information about it, said Ryuji Urata, head of the secretariat of the group, the Local Net Oita Hijiudai.

The number of artillery shots and when they were fired from a monitoring spot was recorded by the group. It plans to observe the activity on a daily basis from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. until the exercise ends up.

The Defense Ministry s Kyushu Defense Bureau scheduled a briefing about the exercise on April 16 but U.S. military officials were absent, having informed the Japanese side the previous day that they would not attend.

The ministry official said that the coordination between Japan and the U.S. side did not work out in time.

On April 17, the U.S. military began live-fire drills that are not open to the public.

A prefectural official said it was a rollback of information disclosure.

Live-fire drills by the U.S. Marine Corps. The 1999 site was opened at the Hijiudai site. It is one of five sites across the nation selected in 1997 for such activities in an effort to reduce the burden imposed by Okinawa, which hosts around 70 percent of the U.S. military facilities in Japan.

The exercise was held in Hijiudai between January and March last year.