RESIDENTS of Okinawa prefecture are facing the worst ever consequences of us military presence in the region. After holding back the truth for months, US and Japanese officials have revealed that a US plane had 'mistakenly' fired 1,520 bullets, each containing 147.7 gm of uranium, from December 1995 through January 1996 during firing exercises on a small uninhabited coral island about 90 km west of the island of Okinawa.

US officials concealed this from their Japanese counterparts for more than a year. On their part, Japanese officials withheld the information from the public for three weeks. Okinawans are out-raged. "If our lives are endangered, we should ask the Marine Corps to return to the US," said Masahide Ota, governor of Okinawa.

According to US officials, the bullets had been mistakenly used because they had not been properly labelled. They claimed that the bullets did not harm either the people or the environment The Japanese government will shortly decide whether the bullets should be recovered from the firing range and examined by its researchers to check if any damage has been done.