Nov 8, 2009
(Posted by CAAI news Media)
GINOWAN (Japan) - THOUSANDS were expected to rally on Sunday against a US military base on Japan's Okinawa island, raising the heat in a simmering row days before President Barack Obama visits Tokyo.
Local opposition has often flared against the large US military presence on the southern island, strategically located within easy reach of China, Taiwan and North Korea and dubbed the United States' 'unsinkable aircraft carrier'.
But the rise of a new centre-left government in Tokyo in September, ending decades of conservative rule, has brought the issue to the centre of national politics and strained Japan's most important security alliance.
More than 30,000 protesters were expected to gather from 0500 GMT (1pm Singapore time) in a park near the controversial US Marine Corps Futenma Air Base in Ginowan city, organisers said. Mr Obama visits Japan on Friday and Saturday.
The Futenma base, located in a densely populated urban area, has emerged as a flashpoint for local opponents who have been angered by aircraft noise, pollution, the risk of accidents and crimes committed by US service personnel.
Okinawans reacted with fury to the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl by three US servicemen, and demands to close the base on safety grounds grew when a US helicopter crashed into the front yard of a local university in 2004. -- AFP