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    US helicopters and planes parked at Futenma US Marine Base in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture (File)

    US Plans to Deploy Multiple Rocket Launcher Systems on Japan's Okinawa – Report

    © AFP 2019 / TORU YAMANAKA
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    The southern Japanese island of Okinawa currently hosts more than 20,000 American troops. The US' military presence on the island has repeatedly been criticised by local residents for driving up crime, as well as disrupting the area via aircraft and vehicle crashes in and around the bases.

    The US military plans to deploy battalions of its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to Japan's Okinawa prefecture for the first-ever missile drills in the area scheduled for later this year, according to the Sankei Shimbun.

    The Japanese newspaper reported that during the drills, the HIMARS multiple rocket launcher systems may fire tactical ballistic missiles with a range of up to 300 kilometres (186 miles) to destroy maritime and ground targets. The deployment of the systems is expected to be conducted by the 1st Corps of the US Army.

    The HIMARS drills will reportedly be carried out as part of countermeasures to contain Chinese warships which have frequently sailed through waters near Okinawa, where the majority of US troops in Japan are based. Beijing, in turn, insists that its activities in the area are purely for self-defence.

    The reported HIMARS deployment comes amid the relocation of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is currently situated in Okinawa's densely populated city of Ginowan, to the Henoko district.

    READ MORE: US Marine Commander on Okinawa Sacked for 'Loss of Trust, Confidence'

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    The relocation plans sparked protests among the tens of thousands of local residents who demanded the facility be removed from Okinawa completely, not just moved to another location.

    Right now, about 25,000 US troops are stationed on Okinawa. Locals have repeatedly slammed the island's US bases for causing disruption via aircraft and vehicle crashes, environmental damage, and fuelling crime, including rape. 


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