TOKYO, April 24 (Xinhua) -- Local residents of Kadena on Okinawa's main island said the United States military conducting parachute training drills over Okinawa's mainland on Monday morning was completely unacceptable with the latest provocation coming amid rising anti-U.S. military sentiment on the island.
Local media reported that residents in the area still remember a tragic incident that occurred in 1965 involving an elementary schoolgirl being crushed to death by a trailer being parachuted down to a village during such a drill.
The area hasn't seen parachute drills by the U.S. military since a drill at the base in 2011, that saw 30 personnel deploy from a MC-130 special mission aircraft, official accounts showed.
The aircraft used to deploy the airmen are designed for infiltration and exfiltration missions and can also be used for resupply of special operation forces.
The large transporter-looking planes can also be configured to be used for air refueling of primarily special operation helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft like the controversial Osprey, also hosted in Okinawa and mainland Japan, and the cause of great condemnation here for its checkered safety record.
The latest drill saw the local residents notified of the parachute exercise less than a day before it occurred, when notice was sent out on Sunday night by the Japanese Defense Ministry.
In 1996, Japan and the U.S. agreed that it would be the Ie Island near Okinawa's main island that would be used for parachuting drills at a reserve airfield there, with the surprise drill over Kadena baffling and scaring residents in the area.
The town of Kadena plays host to the U.S. Kadena Air Base which itself is home to top multiple air squadrons and accommodates around 20,000 service-members, their families and employees living or working there.
Anti U.S. base sentiment in Japan's southernmost prefecture continues to rise of late, with regular demonstrations comprising thousands of locals calling for the controversial U.S. Marines Corps Futenma base to be relocated off the island and not to the coastal Henoko region.
At the end of last month, the "prefectural people's rally calling for immediate cancellation of unlawful land reclamation work and abandonment of the plan to build a new base in Henoko, organized by the All Okinawa Coalition to Prevent Construction of a New Base in Henoko, was held in front of the gate to the U.S. military's Camp Schwab.
The demonstration saw the participation of around 3,500 people, the organizers said.
Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga attended the rally and stated that with all his strength he would absolutely revoke the approval to reclaim land off the shore of Henoko, which is needed build the new base.
Along with the unexpected parachute drill and constant anti-relocation rallies, residents have also been up in arms recently about stray bullets found at the Afuso Dam construction site in the Camp Hansen Marine Corps base on the island.
The base is located in the town of Kin, near the northern shore of Kin Bay, and is the second-northernmost major installation on Okinawa, with Camp Schwab to the north.
Damage from stray bullets was found in water tanks and the cars of dam workers, local media reported, with fears rife that if live rounds were fired and people were in the vicinity at the time, multiple lives could certainly have been lost.
"Stray bullet damage from Camp Hansen has occurred countless times since the end of WWII. It is obvious that this originates from the proximity of Okinawan residents and the base. The practice of live-fire exercises on the narrow island of Okinawa is a mistake," a recent article from an Okinawa-based publication said on the matter.
"The Marines, who operate Camp Hansen and use it mainly for exercises, are inherently unnecessary in Okinawa. Considering the safety of Okinawan residents, the only option is for the Marines to return to the continental United States. If they truly need to conduct live-fire exercises, they would be better off conducting them on the expansive training grounds in the mainland United States," the article said.
Officials from Onna, Okinawa, as well as the Okinawa Defense Bureau, both confirmed that water tanks at the construction site were found empty on April 6 and what appeared to be bullet holes were found inside the tanks.
On April 13, similar damage from bullets was found on the cars of workers who had parked at the construction site, much to the continued consternation of local residents.
The local Okinawan residents' calls for an end to their "occupation" and for all U.S. military personnel to return to the continental U.S. are growing evermore vociferous.