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Japan to inspect soil at U.S. base in Okinawa for contamination


Japan will conduct environmental studies next week on soil at a U.S. military base in Okinawa Prefecture where dozens of metal drums were found abandoned, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Friday.

"We will take appropriate measures in cooperation with the United States and the city of Ginowan," which hosts part of the Marine Corps' Camp Foster, Onodera told a press conference.

Under the status of forces agreement, Japan cannot enter U.S. military bases to conduct environmental studies without permission.

It is rare for the United States to allow such an environmental inspection within U.S. bases not planned for return to Japan.

Officials from the ministry's local bureau and Ginowan city detected no unusual odor or color change in soil at the base when they conducted a visual inspection as part of its cultural property research after gaining permission from the U.S. military, Onodera said.

No health problems have been reported so far by residents living around the base, which straddles Ginowan and other towns.

The Ginowan city government has called on the Defense Ministry to investigate possible environmental impacts after finding the abandoned drums at the base when looking for buried cultural properties.

Ginowan officials said Friday that even though some of the drums at the base were first found in October, it was not reported to the city's mayor until earlier this week.

Separate from the status of forces agreement, Tokyo and Washington are now trying to conclude a new accord concerning environmental preservation and research within U.S. base premises.