20:08 GMT +318 August 2019
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    A ground crew member walks towards the tail of a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker protruding from a hanger at Kadena Air Base on Japan's southwestern island of Okinawa (File)

    US Military Drills at Okinawa Test the Limits of Tokyo’s Patience

    © AP Photo / Greg Baker
    Asia & Pacific
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    The decision by the US military to hold a snap exercise near Okinawa hints at Pentagon’s apparent belief that the US troops can do as they please on the island without having to worry about the consequences.

    Earlier Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada demanded the US military to cancel its parachuting drill scheduled to take place in the vicinity of Okinawa on May 31 and June 1.

    It should be noted that the US has apparently failed to notify Japan seven days ahead of the drill, as stipulated by a security agreement between the two countries; Tokyo only learned of this development when the US issued Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) to the Japanese civil aviation authorities.

    "We asked [the US] not to conduct the training and to delete the NOTAM. So far we have not received a response from the US site," Inada said.

    This parachuting drill became the third such exercise conducted by the US military forces at Okinawa this month, even though Japan and the United States agreed in 1996 that US parachute drills must be conducted on the island of Iejima, while other sites can be used for such purposes only under exceptional circumstances.

    Meanwhile, Valery Kistanov, head of the Center of Japanese Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Far Eastern Studies, told Sputnik Radio that the US military has apparently gotten used to doing as they please at Okinawa without worrying about the consequences.

    "The fact that they (the US) did not issue a warning beforehand is rather unexpected, as Japan and the US enjoy very close cooperation in the military sphere… The reason for this behavior may be because they think 'we can do whatever we want to, and the Japanese will endure it no matter what because they depend on us in the military sphere'," said Kistanov.

    He also pointed out that local residents have long being dissatisfied with the US military presence on their island.

    "Local residents demand that the military base be removed from the island and that the US military presence be equally distributed throughout Japan, instead of Okinawa being forced to carry this burden alone. However, that base holds strategic importance for the Americans as it allows the US to easily "reach" the Korean Peninsula and to threaten China. The US will never agree to relocate this base from Okinawa; they only intend to move the base a bit to the north, in the vicinity of the city of Nago," Kistanov explained.

    The island of Okinawa is the US military’s main base in Japan within the framework of the US-Japan security treaty signed in 1951.

    Related:

    PACOM: US Will Begin Moving Marines From Okinawa to Guam in 2024
    Japan Proceeds With Controversial New US Air Base on Okinawa
    US Conducts Drills in Okinawa Violating Agreement on Relocation to Ioto
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    reaction, military drills, US military, Japanese Defense Ministry, Tomomi Inada, Okinawa, Japan
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