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Massive protest on Okinawa opposes U.S. military after killing

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Protesters wearing masks of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, and U.S. President Barack Obama, right, attend a rally in front of the National Diet building in Tokyo Sunday.

TOKYO >> Tens of thousands of people on the Japanese island of Okinawa protested Sunday against the presence of U.S. military bases there, many wearing black to mourn the rape and killing of a local woman in which an American contractor is a suspect.

The rally called for a review of the U.S.-Japanese security agreement, which burdens Okinawa with hosting the bulk of American troops in Japan. Also contentious is a plan to relocate a Marine Corps air station to a less-populated part of the southwestern island. The relocation plan developed after public anger erupted in 1995 over the rape of a girl by three American servicemen.

The killing of the local woman, who had been missing for several weeks when her body was found last month, set off outrage on Okinawa, where tensions periodically run high over crime linked to American troops. The U.S. contractor, a former Marine, was arrested on May 19 on suspicion of abandoning the woman’s body, but has not yet been charged with killing her.

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga told the crowd at the rally in Okinawa’s capital, Naha, that he wanted to apologize to the woman for failing to protect her, even after what happened in 1995.

“We had pledged never to repeat such an incident,” he said. “I couldn’t change the political system to prevent that. That is my utmost regret as a politician and as governor of Okinawa.”

About 65,000 people attended the rally, according to the Kyodo News agency. Many people held signs demanding the Marines leave and the overall military on Okinawa be scaled back.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is behind the security agreement with the U.S., and wants Japan to take on a bigger military role on the international stage. But those at the rally said they wanted a more peace-oriented Japan.

“This is not how we want the country to be,” said university student Jinshiro Motoyama. “We want the bases gone.”

A rally was also held in front of the prime minister’s residence in Tokyo, drawing about 10,000 people, timed to coincide with and show support for the Okinawa rally.

The U.S. military has periodically tried to ease tensions on Okinawa, and says the crime rate among its ranks is lower than among the general public.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Navy imposed a drinking ban after an American sailor was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving on Okinawa, driving the wrong way on a freeway and crashing into two vehicles, injuring two people. The restriction was recently eased.

Last month, Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, the commanding general of Marine Forces Japan, stressed the importance of the bilateral alliance. “Please do not allow this terrible act of violence to drive a wedge between our two communities,” he said on Okinawa, referring to the woman’s death. “There may be issues we differ on. But we must continue to talk. Let’s keep those lines of communication open.”

But Jeff Kingston, a professor of Asian history at Temple University in Tokyo, said resentment about the bases will likely continue on Okinawa, adding that he believes the base relocation project may be delayed.

“I think they just feel so frustrated,” he said of residents of Okinawa. “These protests are not just going to go away.”

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      • Uhhhh you clearly failed World History. Failing to remember it was the USA which rebuilt Japan and Europe after WWII.

        What you also do not know is in Okinawa the locals commit crimes. Problem is, as their Police Chief admitted, USA crimes make the front page, locals make the back pages, small story. All about saving face.

        Fact is, “Okinawan government figures show the rest of Okinawa’s populace has a crime rate more than twice as high over the same period — 69.7 crimes per 10,000 people, compared with 27.4 by SOFA members.” Again, USA crimes front page news, locals barely make the news.

        Ref: http://www.stripes.com/news/despite-low-crime-rate-us-military-faces-no-win-situation-on-okinawa-1.411132

        • I know more history than you ever will. I have been all over the world and even lived on Okinawa for about two years. What difference does it make if “USA which rebuilt Japan and Europe after WWII”? Does that allow them to occupy the countries for over 50 YEARS?

          If the crime rate in the U.S. is high, does that mean it’s okay for foreigners to come here and commit crimes?

          You try but cannot justify crimes by citing other crimes. You are totally ignorant about most thing you comment on.

  • Everyone commenting about this story and previous related stories apparently is unaware of the facts in this case. Contrary to what the story says, the alleged killer is not an American contractor. He is a former marine who was permitted by the Japanese government to reside in Japan with his Okinawan wife following his discharge from the marines. He was a legal resident of Japan and subject to the laws of Japan. Although he is an American, he is not a member of the US military community and is not subject to the Status of Forces Agreement as are member of the US military community. He was hired by a civilian contractor that provides services to US military installations on Okinawa, but that did not make him a member of the US military community. Such contractors routinely hire former military personnel and retirees as well as Japanese nationals. His status in Japan was the same as a Japanese citizen. Unfortunately, he is being portrayed as a member of the US military community. The protestors are misdirecting their anger. They should be protesting the government of Japan for allowing this creep to live in Japan as a legal resident.

    • Thanks for the helpful clarification,Ronin006, but 70 years of occupation has proved that Japan is no longer a threat to world peace. It’s time to reassess our military footprint, not only in Japan and Germany, but domestically as well. Too much prime land belongs to our federal government. The same can be said of our county and state governments, as well.

      • Being in Japan is not about Japan being the problem. We are there because North Korea, Russia, and (mainly) china. Japan and Okinawa offer a great position to defend the pacific

        • A position we can ill afford to go on maintaining. Besides, having a host intent on removing us offers a timely opportunity.

        • aomohoa – Clearly haven’t got a clue, attended the Nei’s failing educational system.

          If we are so hated as you say but fail to support with credible references, why is the USA the #1 country for new immigrants? Why do so many people from every other country on earth want to come here?

          Your silence says it all.

    • Here is another fact the AP willfully failed to mention. Crime rate by locals, Okinawans, is twice that of US Military/SOFA personnel. USA crimes make the lead news story, front page. Crimes by locals are barely reported, a footnote, all to save face.

      “Okinawan government figures show the rest of Okinawa’s populace has a crime rate more than twice as high over the same period — 69.7 crimes per 10,000 people, compared with 27.4 by SOFA members.”

      “The SOFA crime rate also has been dropping, police figures show. In 2014, the prefecture saw the lowest level of crime committed by SOFA-status personnel since the reversion. Out of 3,410 arrests prefecture-wide that year, only 27 involved SOFA personnel.”

      Ref: http://www.stripes.com/news/despite-low-crime-rate-us-military-faces-no-win-situation-on-okinawa-1.411132

      Just another low class article by the willfully failing AP cub reporters.

      • No, he did not. He had a pass to enter the bases to perform work for the contractor as do all employees of such contractors, but he was not authorize to use base facilities. He is 32 years old and did not serve long enough to retire and get a pension.

    • From the very beginning it was mentioned that he is not part of the military. However, it was the military who initially brought this alleged rapist-murderer to the island and the Okinawans have always disliked having so mauch U.S. military occupying their island.

      After 70 YEARS, it is time for the U.S. to put their military on some of their own islands in the Pacific and leave the Okinawans in peace.

    • Right, just like the Philippines. hahahahaha
      Ohh yeah, now the Filipinos are begging the US military to come back and to defend them as China has been circling the their islands like vultures.

  • The Japanese want American forces in Asia, some of them just don’t want us on Japanese soil. Japan wants the military umbrella to protect them, provide them with American dollars, so that they don’t need to spend their resources defending themselves from a newly aggressive PRC. Japan has a good deal, and they know it, these protestors will have their world stage to perform, the murderer will have his day in court, then everything will calm down again.

    • Uhhh, here is what you do not know. Japan pays a large percentage of the cost to maintain US bases. Majority of civilian workers on base are Japanese. Spend their entire working career there and like the jobs.

      • Japan should pay ALL the costs for US troops there since they provide the deterrent that Japan needs to protect itself from it’s neighbors. As another poster mentioned, we aren’t there to deter Japanese aggression, we’re there to prevent the Chinese and North Koreans from taking action against Japan. If they don’t think their security is worth paying for we should bring our troops home.

        • The U.S. military was based in Japan originally to make sure that Japan did not start building a military force. At present, it is NOT ” to prevent the Chinese and North Koreans from taking action against Japan”. It is not just to protect Japan but just to maintain a military presence in Asia – basically to attempt to show the world that the U.S. is the “police force of the world”. So, why should Japan “pay ALL the costs”? Nobody asked the U.S. to be the “police force of the world”.

  • History will repeat itself as with PI with the the emotional triumph of ejection of military turning to boo-hoos after big C moves in and starts kickin their butt at will.

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