55,000 sign crash-protest petition


The mayor of Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, submitted to the central government Monday the signatures of some 55,000 people protesting last month’s crash of a U.S. military helicopter on a local university campus.

In submitting the petition, Mayor Yoichi Iha demanded the closure and return of the nearby U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station.

Iha and the organizers of a protest rally held Sunday in Ginowan delivered a resolution, adopted at the rally, and copies of the signatures to the Okinawa office of the Foreign Ministry and the Naha Regional Defense Facilities Administration Bureau.

The resolution features six demands, including calls for an apology and compensation for damage caused by the crash, the termination of U.S. military flights over civilian areas, the return of the Futenma base at an early date and an overhaul of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.

Iha told officials at the central government offices, “We urged the central government to hammer out policies to close and provide for the early return of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station within the scope of negotiations concerning the realignment of U.S. forces.”

The protest was attended by some 30,000 people, tripling the Ginowan Municipal Government’s expectations.