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Tougher US action urged in Okinawa

China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-13 10:34
A cautionary sign is placed outside of US Naval Hospital Okinawa exchange reminding personnel to practice social distancing to help fight against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Camp Foster on Okinawa, Japan April 3, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO-The governor of Japan's Okinawa island demanded a top US military commander take tougher prevention measures after officials were told more than 60 Marines at two bases have been infected with the coronavirus in the past few days.

Okinawan officials on Sunday reported a total of 61 cases, 38 of them at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is at the center of a relocation dispute, and another 23 at Camp Hansen, since last Tuesday. They said that US military officials told them the two bases have since been put in lockdown.

The disclosure of the exact figures came only after Okinawa's repeated requests to the US military.

Governor Denny Tamaki, in telephone talks late on Saturday with Lieutenant General H. Stacy Clardy, commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force, demanded the US military increase disease prevention measures to maximum levels, stop sending personnel from the mainland US to Okinawa and seal the bases, and provide more transparency.

"Okinawans are shocked by what we were told (by the US military)," Tamaki told a news conference on Saturday. "It is extremely regrettable that the infections are rapidly spreading among US personnel when we Okinawans are doing our utmost to contain the infections.

"We now have strong doubts that the US military has taken adequate disease prevention measures."

Tamaki said he wants more talks with the US military. Okinawan officials also asked the Japanese government to pressure the US to provide details including the number of cases, seal off Futenma and Camp Hansen, and step up preventive measures.

Adding to their concern is quarantining of an unidentified number of US citizens service members arriving from the mainland US for staff rotations at an off-base hotel due to a shortage of space on base, officials said.

The US Marines said in a statement on Friday that the troops were taking additional protective measures to limit the spread of the virus and were restricting off-base activities. The statement said measures are "to protect our forces, our families and the local community", without providing details of the infections.

Okinawa is home to more than half of about 50,000 US troops based in Japan under a bilateral security pact, and the residents are sensitive to US base-related problems. Many Okinawans have long complained about pollution, noise and crime.

Agencies Via Xinhua

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