Protests in Okinawa

Prior to Obama’s upcoming visit to Japan, about 20,000 Japanese took to the streets yesterday in protest in Okinawa.  In the case of the US-Japan alliance, it appears that for all of the political and environmental harmony between Hatoyama and Obama, and in spite of the fact that the Japanese were among the most excited for his having won the Nobel Peace Prize, that certain underlying structural aspects of US-Japan relations were bond to make Obama the focus of ire in Japan.

Anti-Americanism, in other words, far surpasses the crouching, strutting, brush-cutting figure of George W. Bush.  The Epoch Times reports:

GINOWAN, Japan—Thousands of Japanese gathered in sweltering heat on the southern island of Okinawa on Sunday to demand that a U.S. Marine base be moved out of the region, days ahead of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The row over the re-siting of the Futenma air base threatens to stall a realignment of the 47,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan and sour defence ties between the two countries, seen as key in a region home to a rising China and an unpredictable North Korea.

It could also prove a domestic headache for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, whose support ratings have slipped since his landslide election victory in August.

“Okinawa’s future is for us, the Okinawan people to decide,” Ginowan mayor Yoichi Iha told a supportive crowd which spilled out of an open-air theatre by the beach. “We cannot let America decide for us.”

Organisers put the number of protesters at 21,000.

Under a 2006 U.S.-Japan agreement, the Futenma Marine base in the centre of the city of Ginowan is set to be closed and replaced with a facility built partly on reclaimed land at Henoko, a remoter part of the island, by 2014.

The deal, which Washington wants to push through after years of what a military official called “painful” negotiations, is part of a wider plan to re-organise U.S. troops and reduce the burden on Okinawa by moving up to 8,000 Marines to Guam.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has urged Japan to approve the plan ahead of Obama’s visit, which is scheduled to start on Nov. 12.



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