Okinawa peace event kicks off

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) An annual event calling for global peace and the return of land used by U.S. bases began Friday in Okinawa, amid the deadlocked issue of where to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The event, which comes ahead of Saturday’s 38th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan from U.S. occupation, will run through Sunday, according to organizers.

This year it includes a two-day march and a rally. There will also be a human chain Sunday around the Futenma base to protest the government’s plan to relocate most of the flight operations within Okinawa, the organizers said.

Three courses, 30 km each, have been prepared for the march that started Friday morning, including one starting from the Henoko district near the contentious location of a planned airfield for Futenma.

The government is exploring the possibility of building a runway using a pile-supported structure in shallows off the coast of the Henoko district in Nago as an alternate site for the Futenma air field.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s chances of meeting his self-imposed deadline of May 31 to settle the relocation issue are looking slim as Okinawans have become increasingly vocal against the idea of moving the base within the prefecture.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has also voiced concerns about the government’s plan, citing environmental concerns and the risk of terrorist attacks.