Okinawa Protesters Say Close U.S. Base

Tens of thousands of Okinawa protesters gathered on the Japanese island of Okinawa on Sunday. Demanding to remove American military bases in what organizers explain as the largest demonstration against the United States presence there in two decades.

The protest held in Naha, the capital of Okinawa, was called as a memorial for a 20-year-old national woman who was found dead last month. A United States Marine veteran working as a civilian contractor on the island was arrest in connection with the murder, prompting a public outcry.

65,000 people attending the Sunday protest, making it the largest demonstration since 1995 when two US Marines. Also a Navy sailor were arrested for the rape of a 12-year-old girl. That episode shook the tight military alliance between the United States and Japan and is still remembered bitterly by many Okinawans.

The governor of Okinawa said during a speech at the rally on Sunday. That he will not tolerate these vicious crimes. The governor wants the United States military reduced. As well as Japanese newspaper opinion surveys and recent election results indicate that an increasing number of residents agree. About 1.4 million people live in Okinawa, including roughly 50,000 Americans mostly connected to the military.

About half the American soldiers stationed in Japan call Okinawa home. With three-quarters of the US bases being on the island. The governor and his supporters feel that is an unfairly large share considering the size of the island.

American forces in Okinawa are currently under a 30-day curfew. Known to be a mourning period in response to the recent killing. The soldiers are no longer allowING to drink in public and must be on their bases or at home at night.

The Navy imposing a separate drinking ban on all personnel in Japan this month. After the arrest of a sailor in Okinawa who was drinking and driving which caused a car accident leaving two Japanese civilians injuring.

Resentment towards the United States presence in Okinawa has been on the rise. Fueling by concerns over crime and by an unfair plan to build a new Marine airfield on the northern side of the island.

Local elections this month show that voters gave an expanded majority to politicians who oppose the US airfield. Also plan to reduce the presence of the American military.

Defenders of the military point out statistics showing that American soldiers in Okinawa get lower charges with crimes by the Japanese authorities than locals do. However, the numbers are difficult to weigh because US personnel only spend part of their time under Japanese legal jurisdiction. Their bases are technically still US territory.

The governor is seeking to forge a political coalition to reduce the United States presence. Although is opposing by the government in Tokyo. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the leader in Tokyo. Also is a conservative who has been working to strengthen ties with Washington. He argues that any perceived weakening of the alliance may catch the attention of Japan’s rival, China.

The governor came from the same political party as the Prime Minister but broke away from it over the base issues. The Okinawan wing has been sympathetic to the governor. Although declining to endorse the protest rally on Sunday. Which left organizers dependent on a more traditional, anti-base coalition of communists and socialists.

U.S. Base