Japan : Japanese protesters on Sunday demonstrated against the heavy US military presence on the island of Okinawa, as tensions run high after a base employee was arrested following the rape and murder of a local woman.
Some 100 people marched through the streets of downtown Tokyo, with many of them holding banners reading “no more base”.
The protest, calling for plans to create a fresh US base on the southern island to be scrapped, came a week before tens of thousands on Okinawa plan to hold their own rally against the foreign military presence.
A series of crimes including rapes, assaults and hit-and-run accidents by US military personnel, dependents and civilians have long sparked protests.
Last week Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 32, a former US Marine employed at the US Air Force’s sprawling Kadena Air Base, was arrested for the alleged rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman.
He had earlier been arrested for disposing of the body of the victim, identified by local media as Rina Shimabukuro.
The case has intensified longstanding local opposition to the military presence on the strategic island, which reluctantly hosts about 75 percent of US bases in Japan by land area.
A sailor was arrested in early June for allegedly driving the wrong way down a street while intoxicated and injuring two people, one seriously, leading to further opposition and an alcohol ban for US navy personnel stationed in the country.
More than half of the 47,000 American troops in Japan under a decades-long security alliance are stationed on Okinawa, the site of a major World War II battle that was followed by a 27-year US occupation of the island.
In 1995 the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen prompted Washington to pledge efforts to strengthen troop discipline to prevent such crimes and reduce the US footprint on the island.
But a plan agreed by the US and Japanese governments to relocate a US base from Okinawa’s heavily residential area to another site on the island has faced strong resistance from many Okinawans.