As a foreign resident of Okinawa since the ’90s, I have grown accustomed to the overarching reach of the U.S. military that reflects Okinawan society every single day, whether it is a gruesome car accident caused by a young service member driving a large tactical vehicle for the first time on the “wrong” side of the road or another sexual assault that made its way outside the confines of the military base.

By the military’s own admission, sexual assault is rampant on the bases. So rampant, the highest law enforcement authority on the bases, NCIS or OSI depending on the branch of service, is overwhelmed with case upon case.

Unfortunately, these criminal acts bleed out into Okinawan society, many times going unreported due to the difference in criminal codes interpretation between the Okinawan Prefectural Police and the military police. The U.S. military had been welcomed and tolerated as they performed a vital service to the U.S.-Japan defense treaty; however, with the continued intolerance toward other cultures and treating the Okinawan people as second-class citizens unworthy of respect, their welcome has been worn out.

The Self-Defense Forces are more than capable to defend Okinawa against any aggression by our Asian neighbors. The only reason North Korea has its missiles trained on Okinawa is due to the large amount of U.S. forces present. The Okinawan people are speaking loud and clear voting in Gov. Takeshi Onaga and several other politicians who have a common sense approach. It’s time for an exit plan for U.S. forces to leave Okinawa and follow the will of the Okinawan people. Only then will Okinawa be able to transcend itself into a true tourist destination and reap the economic benefits of being an international hub for business and education in Asia.

Michael Curt

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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