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Sunday, July 23, 2000

U.S. Marines practice jungle warfare near G8 summit site


Staff writer

NAGO, Okinawa Pref. — U.S. Marine Corps combat training at Camp Gonsalves, about an hour's drive from the Group of Eight summit site, was open to the media for viewing Saturday — though not for the first time.

U.S. Marines train at the Camp Schwab jungle facility near where G8 leaders are meeting.

As the G8 leaders attended their second day of meetings, marines based in Okinawa continued their training at the Jungle Warfare Training Center at the camp, located in the northern part of Okinawa Island.

Five hundred U.S. Marines are currently in the middle of a 26-day training program designed to prepare them for combat and survival in such an environment.

About 8,000 marines train annually at the center, going through maneuvers that include combat using M-16 rifles with nonlethal bullets and casualty treatment under fire, according to marine officials.

Formerly known as the Northern Training Area, the 81-sq.-km center, opened in 1958, is the last jungle and mountainous environment in the world under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Defense, making it an important training site, they said.

Consisting of unique and demanding mountainous terrain — dense single-canopy vegetation in harsh tropical weather conditions — the center offers a challenging training experience, officials said.

On Saturday, members of the media were escorted by marine officials to view combat drills in the jungle and were invited to join cliff-repelling exercises.

Public plaza on base

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) U.S. Ambassador Thomas Foley on Saturday attended a ceremony marking the opening of a public plaza inside a U.S. base in Okinawa Prefecture that is hoped will improve the base's relations with local residents.

The 1,500-sq.-meter plaza, a joint project of the Okinawa city government and the U.S. military, is located inside Kadena Air Base. The base is the biggest U.S. military facility in Asia.

Foley said in an address that base personnel intend to be good guests in Okinawa, which is hosting more than 50,000 U.S. military personnel and dependents.

Antimilitary sentiment has intensified in Okinawa following two recent incidents in which U.S. military personnel were accused of crimes. One involved the alleged molestation of a 14-year-old Okinawan girl by a marine.

At Saturday's ceremony, about 300 Japanese and American elementary and junior high school students from the base and surrounding areas joined in a traditional Okinawan folk dance and other performances.

U.S. military and municipal officials are currently discussing conditions for the use of the plaza.



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