Protesters gather for anti-US military rally in Okinawa

Protesters gather for anti-US military rally in Okinawa

Okinawa: Scuffles have broken out between Japanese police and anti-US protesters who were out on the streets to voice their anger at the American military presence on the Okinawa island, reported BBC

Large crowds of demonstrators gathered outside the US marine base, called Camp Schwab, in Okinawa Prefecture on Friday to denounce US troops in their country.

The angry protesters blocked the main gate of the base and chanted slogans against the relocation plan, holding banners that read, “Marines Out.”

Okinawa hosts 26,000 US military personnel.

They work and live on bases that cover a fifth of the island and are a key part of the US-Japan security alliance.

Okinawa has become known as the site of enduring tensions with the US forces deployed there.

Protests have become increasingly intense after a US base employee was recently arrested following the suspected rape and murder of a local woman.

Police found DNA matching the dead woman’s in a car belonging to Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a former US marine who worked at the US Air Force’s Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.

The protesters will rally in the prefectural capital Naha, with a simultaneous gathering due to happen outside parliament in Tokyo in sympathy.

Okinawa’s Governor Takeshi Onaga is expected to attend the Naha rally.

The demonstrators will also call for the scrapping of plans by Washington and Tokyo to move a major US Marine facility in the centre of the island to a more remote area.

But Mr Onaga and residents want the Futenma base to be removed entirely.

Okinawa was under US occupation for 27 years, following World War Two.

The United States and Japan agreed in 1996 to relocate the US Marines’ Futenma base, currently in a heavily populated area, to a new site in Okinawa.

However, many residents whose prefecture was the only part of Japan to suffer a bloody land battle during World War II want the base and the US military off their land altogether.

US army lifts drinking ban on Okinawa troops

In a separate development, the US Navy said in a statement on Friday that all sailors in Japan — including on Okinawa — can now drink in the base and in their off-base homes.

The US banned its troops in Okinawa from drinking alcohol following a drunk-driving accident that injured two people on June 6.

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Matthew Carter, who commands the US Navy in Japan, stressed that out-of-control drinking threatened to harm ties.

“We must all be on the lookout to step in before alcohol-related incidents jeopardize our relationship with Japan,” he said.