Special Reports
DU munitions in Okinawa

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Growing distrust over an island of gravel

During the shell firing exercises carried out at the Torishima US Millitary Firing Range in Okinawa Prefecture in December 1995 and January 1996, the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) Harriers owned by the US Marine Base at Iwakuni fired 1,520 rounds of DU, a radioactive weapon. This fact was revealed a little over a year later, in February 1997. The demands of Okinawa citizens that the US military retrieve the rounds were ignored. In May 2000, the US Air Force Command in Okinawa announced that they were storing DU shells in the Kadena munition storage area. A few days later, 473 rounds of used DU shell cartridges were discovered in the storehouse of a local company that purchases scrap from the US military. Thus, DU shells that should have been removed from Okinawa are still stored on the island, and negligence has resulted in the sale of used cartridges to the private sector as "steel scrap." When I visited Okinawa just prior to the G8 Summit, even as the local residents welcomed the event, their distrust of the US military was mounting.
[Story and photos by Akira Tashiro]
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