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Friday, 19 January, 2001, 14:29 GMT
Okinawa urges US troops cutback
US troops
The US has a large military presence in Japan
By Charles Scanlon in Tokyo

Politicians on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa have called on the United States to reduce its military presence following a recent sexual assault on a teenage girl.


The resolution calls on the US - which has around 30,000 servicemen on the island - to take action to prevent further crimes.

The move, by the 48-member Provincial Assembly is the latest development in a long running dispute between residents and US troops.

The rape of a schoolgirl by three marines in 1995 led to mass protests against the US presence and since then Okinawans have become increasingly sensitive to crimes by American troops.

Indecent assault

In the latest incident, a US marine sergeant is alleged to have lifted the skirt of a teenage girl and taken photographs.

Okinawa is host to the bulk of the 47,000 US troops stationed in Japan, and residents have long complained that the ratio is unfair.

Their anger has often been directed at the Japanese Government as well as at the US.

US troops
US marines have been in Okinawa for 55 years
Japan has insisted on redeployments of troops within Okinawa, but does not want troops moved to the main islands where opposition would be just as intense.

The latest protest by the Okinawa Assembly is not likely to have much impact on policy.

Japan's military chief recently ruled out reducing the numbers of troops and the US says the island is the key to its strategic position in East Asia.

And despite concerns about crime, many Okinawans are ambivalent about the troops' presence as they are a key element in the depressed local economy.

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See also:

04 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa marine charged
20 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa: Island of resentment
10 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Discipline warning for Okinawa military
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