Some 13,000 Japanese rallied against the permanent basing of the nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier at the port of Yokosuka, just south of Tokyo, saying a recent onboard fire made it unsafe. The George Washington—relieving the soon-to-be decommissioned USS Kitty Hawk—will be the first nuclear-powered vessel to station permanently in Japan. The ship’s arrival was originally set for August, but was delayed because of a fire aboard the vessel in May. Some 250 residents have filed a lawsuit seeking to block the carrier from basing in Japan.
The US Navy says the fire, which left one sailor with minor burns and 23 others with heat stress, never threatened the safety of the ship’s nuclear reactor. But protesters were skeptical. “The US military has not fully disclosed the cause” of the fire, said Masahiko Goto, a lawyer representing local residents. “Japan should not allow a deployment when serious safety concerns remain.”
The Kitty Hawk, which was commissioned in 1961, has been home-ported in Japan since 1998 as the US Navy’s only forward-deployed carrier. It is the Navy’s last conventionally powered aircraft carrier. (AP, July 13)