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Okinawa demands the U.S. Marine Corps withdraw from the island after arrest of worker

Japan US Military okinawa
(AP Photo/ Eugene Hoshiko)

The Okinawa assembly on Thursday prepared a protest to be sent to the U.S. government calling for the withdrawal of Marines from the southernmost island prefecture following the arrest of a civilian U.S. base worker linked to the death of a local woman.

The prefectural assembly adopted a resolution addressed to the U.S. government and military and a separate statement to the Japanese central government, both seeking a revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement that defines the handling of U.S. base personnel in Japan.

The assembly also called for the pending relocation of the U.S. ‘ Air Station Futenma within the prefecture to be reassessed.

The rare move by the assembly to demand the exit of the Marines came a week after Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a former U.S. Marine and current civilian worker at the U.S. Kadena Air Base, was arrested for dumping the body of the 20-year-old woman.

Shinzato, 32, has since admitted to killing the victim after sexually assaulting her, according to investigative sources, sparking fierce anger among locals who already feel burdened with the heavy U.S. military presence.

Numerous Okinawa municipal assemblies have already passed resolutions to protest the crime, while locals visited the site where her body was found to offer flowers.

“I only feel anger,” said Minato Tokashiki, 21, who visited the site in the village of Onna with his girlfriend. “The U.S. base should be removed as soon as possible.”

The latest resolution and the statement questioned the effectiveness of U.S. forces’ efforts to prevent repeated offenses in Okinawa and called for the consolidation of U.S. bases in the prefecture, in addition to requesting compensation and an apology on behalf of the woman’s family.

In an apparent attempt to defuse local anger, U.S. President Barack Obama offered his “sincere condolences and deepest regrets” to the families of the woman in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday prior to the Group of Seven summit in central Japan starting Thursday.

The crime emerged at a sensitive time for bilateral relations as Obama is set to make a historic visit to the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima on Friday following the G-7 summit.

More than 70 years after Japan’s defeat in World War II, Okinawa continues to host the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan. Coupled with the heavy U.S. military presence, crimes committed by U.S. service members and nonmilitary personnel in Okinawa have become a constant source of grievance among local people.

The rape of a 12-year-old Okinawa schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995, in particular, prompted a wave of public outrage.


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