U.S. MILITARY EXERCISE CLOSES TINIAN TOUR ROAD

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SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb 15) – The U.S. military is reportedly conducting small-scale exercises on Tinian, resulting in the closure of the road leading to the North Field since Tuesday.

Tinian Mayor Jose P. San Nicolas confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the military began a three-day exercise that day in the area.

The mayor described the training as "low-level flying training for helicopter crew."

"The road is closed because they don't want disturbance when they train. I hope the public understands this," said the mayor.

He said the local government put out a notice and posted it on public buildings.

A local resident, however, doubted that tour operators were informed about the closure of North Field, a top historical site where the two World War II atomic bomb pits are located.

"It is the No. 1 tourist attraction on the island. Island tour buses go there to highlight the bomb pits on North Field to every visitor - everyday. Not only does this [closure] deprive our tourists opportunity, it is the sole reason some of them come to the island," said the resident, who requested anonymity.

"Not only does it cut into [island's gross] revenues, it ruins a trip to Tinian, especially if the bus driver or rental dealer cannot tell their customers North Field is closed before they sign up for the tour or rent the car," said the resident.

Rental car companies were reportedly unaware of the closure.

San Nicolas, for his part, said that the local government cannot interfere with the U.S. military's training schedule.

"I'm sorry for affected tourists but what can I do? North Field is owned by the military. We can't tell them, 'Don't use it,'" said the mayor.

San Nicolas declined to disclose any other military trainings on island.

In an earlier interview, the mayor said he was unaware of specific military plans for the island, saying he was not in direct discussion with the U.S. military.

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