TOKYO, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) — Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga on Tuesday slammed the central government for using Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) helicopters to haul heavy equipment to be used to build new facilities for the U.S. military in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
Onaga, a staunch opponent of the relocation of a controversial U.S. base within the tiny island and advocate for lessening the base-hosting burdens of the island's local people, said the move by the Defense Ministry was "intolerable."
Local media quoted Onaga as saying that the Defense Ministry's Okinawa bureau using GSDF CH-47 transportation helicopters to airlift trucks and other heavy construction equipment to be used for the construction of U.S. military facilities was one that would greatly harm relations between the local Okinawa and central government.
The prefectural government in Okinawa had strongly urged that GSDF helicopters not be used to transport the equipment when the local chapter of the Defense Ministry informed it of the likelihood just one day before.
Onaga said the central government failed to provide a full explanation ahead of time as to why it was employing the use of the GSDF helicopters for U.S. military-linked construction.
He was quoted by local media Tuesday as saying that he was "observing the current situation with resentment."
It is exceedingly rare for Self-Defense Forces' helicopters to be used for the construction of U.S. military facilities and bases in Japan and, as such, the move saw local residents up in arms and also swift to denounce the move.
Okinawa's Northern Training Area, where two helipads have been built, with further construction underway, was once again the site of vehement protests on Tuesday by locals who are concerned the expanding facility will bring with it further noise and pollution problems.