US military police at Yokosuka base hold shooting drills with blank cartridges

US military police at a naval base in Yokosuka near Tokyo are holding shooting drills using blank cartridges for the first time ever.

Japan's Defense Ministry said the military police will conduct the exercises for three days through Thursday aiming to respond to suspicious vessels that may approach the Yokosuka base.

On Tuesday morning, a US patrol boat equipped with a machine gun carried out shooting exercises with blank ammunition in waters near the base. The boat sounded a siren as it approached a vessel.

Japan's ministry officials said the US Navy holds similar drills at its bases and facilities around the world, and that the drills are also expected at Okinawa, Nagasaki and other facilities in Japan.

At a park near Yokosuka base, officials from the ministry and the city office recorded the time and frequency of the gunshots.

A woman in her 50s said the drills are probably necessary at the US base, but that she does not want to hear the sound of gunfire.

The Japanese ministry says it understands the exercises are needed to improve security, but it is asking the US military to ensure the safety of civilians and commercial vessels.