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Thousands Protest Against US Military In Japan

Thousands Protest Against US Military In Japan

Tens of thousands of people came out in Naha, Tokyo on Sunday to protest against the heavy United States military presence on Japan's Okinawa island, weeks after the arrest of a U.S. base worker - a former USA marine - over suspicion of the rape and murder of a local woman in April.

Protesters called for a review of the US-Japanese security agreement, which requires that Okinawa host the majority of American troops in Japan.

Also contentious is a plan to relocate a US Marine Corps air station to a less-populated part of the island.

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The protest marked a new low for the United States and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in their relations with the island and threatens plans to move the US Marines Futenma air station to a less populous part of the island.

Dissatisfaction with the USA military bases on the island has been brewing for years. "It really started back in 1995, when there was a gang rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl", Jeff Kingston, head of the Asian Studies department at Tokyo's Temple University, told Elise.

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It's "one of the biggest demonstrations in two decades" against the USA military bases on the island, Reuters reports, and comes after an American allegedly raped and killed a local woman named Rina Shimabukuro.

"I'm filled with sadness and I really don't want any more victims", said participant Chihiro Uchimura, 71. "That is my utmost regret as a politician and as governor of Okinawa".

The Okinawa prefectural government had asked the council to judge the appropriateness of a measure taken by Keiichi Ishii, the minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, asking for a retraction of the decision by Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga to revoke his predecessor's approval of land reclamation work off the Henoko district.

Large crowds of demonstrators gathered outside the USA marine base, called Camp Schwab, in Okinawa Prefecture on Friday to denounce U.S. troops in their country. A US contractor, who is a former Marine, was arrested last month on suspicion of abandoning her body. The restriction was recently eased. Let's keep those lines of communication open'.

"If you violate Japanese law, you will be subject to it and I think that is an important and strong message that the Okinawan people need to know", he said. 'These protests are not just going to go away'.

High-profile crimes have sparked large-scale protest rallies before on Okinawa, now considered a strategic linchpin supporting the US-Japan alliance, but where pacifist sentiment runs high.

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