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Sunday, 13 May, 2001, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Okinawa governor blasts US military
Demonstrators hold hands in a human chain around a US airbase
Okinawans resent the US presence
The governor of the Japanese island of Okinawa is travelling to the United States to explain why the American military has become so unpopular.

Governor Keiichi Inamine said he wanted Americans to know about the problems that had arisen on the island, which is home to 25,000 US personnel.

map of Okinawa
It is the first time he has gone to the US to discuss the issue of its bases in Japan since he was elected governor in December 1998.

Local opposition against the US presence has grown since 1995, when three American servicemen raped a Japanese schoolgirl.

Correspondents say Governor Inamine's stance differs from that of the government in Tokyo, which appears willing to assist Washington in focusing its global security strategy on Asia.

New Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has reiterated his predecessors' view that a US - Japanese alliance is the bedrock of Tokyo's diplomatic and security policy.

Cut them down

Mr Inamine will be meeting Deputy US Secretary of State Richard Armitage and military officials to discuss his request for a cut in US forces.

"I would like to let American people know about US base problems in Okinawa prefecture," Inamine was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency in a departure ceremony at Naha airport.

Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine
Governor Inamine is at odds with the central government
Mr Inamine will be accompanied for part of the visit by Tateo Kishimoto, mayor of the northern Okinawa city of Nago, where a US heliport facility is to be relocated - following a 1996 agreement.

Okinawa was occupied by US forces after World War II and reverted to Japanese rule in 1972.

But American bases still occupy 20% of the land, and many Okinawans object to the fact that, while the island makes up only 1% of Japan's land, it is expected to play host to the majority of the 47,000 American troops stationed in the country.

The battle for Okinawa was the bloodiest of the war of the Pacific - 200,000 people were killed.

Okinawans believe they are still paying the price more than half a century later.

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