• Kyodo

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About 240 armed members of the Ground Self-Defense Force paraded Saturday through a shopping mall in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, prompting protests by local peace activists.

It was the first time troops from the local garrison paraded in the mall with weapons. Wearing combat fatigues and carrying rifles and bayonets, the GSDF personnel marched about 1 km in the center of the city.

“This is an outrageous act that intimidates the public and glorifies military activities,” one of the activists said.

Troops from Sasebo’s Ainoura garrison began parading in the city in 2002 to mark the garrison’s founding day.

Partly because the 2002 parade was part of ceremonies to mark the 100th anniversary of Sasebo City, GSDF members did not carry weapons in the mall, heeding the city’s advice it could be considered “provocative.”

In 2003 and 2004, the garrison skipped the shopping mall and paraded on a nearby national road with weapons, with GSDF officials expressing hope the public would see the troops “as they really are.”

“We must close one of the lanes to parade on the national road, a GSDF official said of the decision to march through the shopping center. “In addition, our supporter groups said people have a better vantage point if the parade takes place in the mall.”

GSDF units across Japan normally hold anniversary parades inside their garrisons.

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