Okinawa citizens, led by their political leaders, staged a large anti-US military rally in Tokyo over the weekend to protest continued heavy military presence in their prefecture. The rally is said to be one of the largest involving mayors and politicians since 1972 when the US returned control of Okinawa to Japan.
Protesters accuse the rest of Japan in discriminating against Okinawa by forcing them to house more than half of the 47,000 US military personnel currently in the country. Recent criminal misbehaviour by the personnel, including the alleged rape of an Okinawan woman, has spurred the unrest among the citizens and has fueled their opposition of the continued military presence. Tokyo’s attempts to further the country’s military alliance with the U.S is also one of the reasons for the series of protests and rallies by citizens and their leaders.
Another recent controversy is the announcement from the U.S. government that they will be deploying more of the controversial MV-22 Osprey aircraft at the Kadena Air Force base in Okinawa by 2015. This is despite the continued protests of the residents over the safety issues of the aircraft, which were first deployed at the Marine Corps’ Futenma base in Ginowan. Some banners in the protest on Sunday said “Firmly against Osprey”.
The Okinawan leaders are hoping to meet with government ministers by Monday to discuss their concerns regarding these issues. “Our anger has been boiled to its peak,” Takeshi Onaga, mayor of Naha city, the capital of the prefecture, said at the rally.[ via Channel News Asia ]