Ten Thousands protest US base in Japan’s Okinawa
Ten Thousands of protesters have held a massive rally in Okinawa in southern Japan in protest against the presence of a controversial US airbase on the island.
Organizers estimated that about 35,000 people took to the streets in Okinawa’s capital, Naha, on Sunday.
The protesters also gathered at a baseball stadium in the region to oppose the presence of US Futenma airbase.
The angry demonstrators also chanted slogans against the establishment of a controversial US marine airbase in the southern Japanese island.
The massive demonstrations on Sunday aimed to pressure Japanese government to halt building work for the military base. The protesters also strongly criticized the Tokyo government that is apparently ignoring local residents.
“The government says we are to blame that the issue has stalled for 19 years and they tell us to find an alternative place (for the base relocation). That’s outrageous,” the anti-US base mayor of Nago, Susumu Inamine, told a packed 15,000-seat baseball stadium.
“The government is thrusting their responsibility on us,” Inamine said at the protest rally.
Meanwhile, latest reports say a large number of people have also gathered outside Camp Schwab, the United States Marine Corps camp located in northeastern Okinawa.
Several protesters were arrested while they were trying to block the traffic into the American base.
Similar demos were also held in Henoko on Friday to mark the 43rd anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion from the United States to Japan.
The United States announced plans to move the Futenma airbase in 1996, hoping to ease tensions with the host community.
The decision to move Futenma to the less-populated coastal area of Henoko in Nago City was also raised during Abe’s recent week-long visit to Washington where he and US president Barack Obama agreed to initiate the construction of a new base in Okinawa.
However, locals have pushed to block the relocation of the base within the island. They want the base to be fully moved outside Okinawa.
Locals have long opposed the presence of US troops in the island.
The deep-rooted resentment against the US in Okinawa boiled over in 1995 when US servicemen brutally raped an elementary schoolgirl, triggering mass rallies and violence across Japan. US troops have been involved in other cases of violent conduct in the area, making people more and more sensitive about Abe’s pro-Washington policies.
Abe says he intends to increase the country’s defense ties with the US in a bid to keep China in check. However, critics say the policy directly violates Japan’s pacifist constitution and would lead to a new confrontation with China in the future.