NAHA, Okinawa Pref. – Some 4,000 residents of Okinawa gathered Wednesday at a park in Naha to demand the U.S. Marines Corps presence be scaled down in the prefecture in the wake of a number of crimes committed by service personnel.
The rally was organized by the Okinawa chapter of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) and other organizations in line with the prefectural assembly’s adoption of a resolution in January demanding the number of marines be scaled down.
The rally adopted a resolution calling for a reduction in the number of marines as well as tighter discipline among U.S. military personnel, a drastic review of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement and a cut in the number of U.S. bases in the prefecture.
The assembly’s January resolution was the first to specifically demand a reduction in the number of marines in the prefecture.
It was adopted by unanimous vote at an extraordinary plenary session, reflecting the level of resentment felt toward the some 15,000 U.S. Marines by local residents following a spate of incidents and crimes involving them.
In mid-March, Rengo’s Okinawa chapter started collecting signatures for its call for the reduction, aiming to collect 1 million.
Officials of Rengo’s Okinawa chapter said they had already collected about 1.44 million signatures — some 290,000 signatures from the prefecture and some 1.15 million from the rest of Japan — by Wednesday.
The officials intend to submit the signatures to the prime minister and foreign minister in mid-May, they said.
Okinawa accounts for only 0.6 percent of Japan’s territory but 75 percent of the land occupied by U.S. forces in Japan.
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