Friday, June 15, 2012

Agent Orange’s deadly legacy spreads to Japan

The fallout from the US military’s use of Agent Orange may have spread from Vietnam to Japan. Massive caches of the toxic herbicide were buried on Futenma, “the world’s most dangerous base,” potentially poisoning the island, a Japanese daily reports.

­The US military presence has long been a point of contention for locals on the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, a cluster of islands located some 400 miles south of Japan.

A slew of violent crimes committed over the last 40 years by US servicemen has led 85 per cent of locals to oppose the presence of American bases on Okinawa. However, the military’s most deadly mark on the islands may be a far less visible killer: Agent Orange.

Scores of barrels of the defoliating chemical were clandestinely buried at Futenma Air Base on Okinawa Island following the Vietnam War, the Japan Times reports.

The Pentagon allegedly ignored repeated requests from soldiers serving on the island in the 70s and 80s to safely dispose of a pesticide a million times more toxic than any naturally occurring poison.

In the Summer of 1981, “unacceptably high readings” of chemicals in the wastewater flowing out of the installation prompted Lt. Col. Kris Roberts, the former head of maintenance projects on Futenma, to start digging up the ground near the end of the base’s runway.

"We unearthed over 100 barrels buried in rows. They were rusty and leaking and we could see orange markings around some of their middles," Roberts, now a state representative in New Hampshire, told the Japan Times in a recent interview.


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