HIGASHI, Okinawa Prefecture--Large patches of forest have been cleared for the controversial construction of helipads to be used by the U.S. military, in an aerial look at the progression of the project.
An aerial video and photograph taken by The Asahi Shimbun on Sept. 23 over the Northern Training Area, a U.S. Marines jungle warfare training facility, showed circles of land being cleared in the Takae area of Higashi. The Northern Training Area extends from Higashi to neighboring Kunigami village and is the largest U.S. military facility in Okinawa Prefecture.
Under the construction plan, land with a diameter of 75 meters will be cleared to build the helipads, which will have diameters of 45 meters.
Japan and the United States have agreed to the return of about half of the Northern Training Area, or about 4,000 hectares. One condition for returning the land to Japan was the construction of six helipads in the vicinity of the Takae area for use by the U.S. military.
Two helipads have already been completed, and the Japanese government began construction of the remaining four from July.
The construction has drawn daily protests from locals who cite the close proximity to residential areas. Demonstrators who have tried to impede construction vehicles from accessing the site have clashed with riot police.