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The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"Okinawa has grievances of its own"
 real 28k

Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Okinawa protests against US troops
Protesters form a human chain
Protesters want an end to US bases
Thousands of protesters are staging an anti-American rally on the Japanese island of Okinawa, on the eve of Friday's G8 summit of world leaders.


The US military owns our land, our sea and our sky

Toyo Hokama, Okinawa protester
An estimated 25,000 people have formed a human chain around the largest US base to demand the withdrawal of the US military from the island.

The protest comes a day before the expected arrival of US President Bill Clinton for the Group of Eight summit.


It is the first time a US president will have visited the island since Washington handed it back to Japanese rule in 1972.

The human chain extended along Kadena Air Base perimeter fence, which stretches 17.4km (11 miles) through central Okinawa.

Many protesters wore red, symbolising a "red card" for the bases, while others donned yellow vests emblazoned with the words ''US bases out''.

Crime

About half the total 48,000 US military personnel in Japan are stationed on Okinawa - just over one-quarter of the entire US military presence in Asia.

Human chain protest
Protesters encircled the largest base
But many residents are angry at recent crimes committed by US soldiers.

A US marine has been arrested for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl and an airman has been accused of a hit and run accident.

Five years ago three marines were convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl.

Development

Residents in Okinawa, the poorest part of Japan, also say US interests have stunted the region's development.

US troops
US troops have been in Okinawa for 55 years
"The US military owns our land, our sea and our sky," said protester 82-year-old Toyo Hokama.

Washington and Tokyo maintain the troops' presence is essential for security in Asia-Pacific.

But the protest organisers said the G8 summit was a crucial chance to bring the issue to international attention.

Debt

As world leaders began arriving in Japan on Thursday, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo delivered an impassioned plea to the G8 powers to save lives by cancelling Third World debt.

He is in Tokyo alongside South African President Thabo Mbeki and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as representatives of the developing world to press the G8 over debt relief.

His cause has won support from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and World Bank President James Wolfensohn.

Mr Wolfensohn wrote this week to the leaders of the industrialised nations to urge "speed and flexibility" in efforts to ease debt burdens.

"A world in which the rich get richer while the poorest countries are left out can never be secure and stable," said Mr Wolfensohn, who will also attend Thursday's meetings in Tokyo.

The G8 groups the G7 leading industrialised countries - Canada, the US, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Japan - and Russia.

The leaders are expected to discuss:

  • The spread of infectious diseases including Aids
  • Helping Third World countries with debt relief
  • Improving the workings of global financial institutions such as the World Bank
  • Nuclear proliferation
  • The spread of internet technology
  • International action against crime

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See also:

20 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair focuses on world stage
19 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
G8 urged to honour debt promise
15 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Thousands rally against US troops
10 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Discipline warning for Okinawa military
07 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Okinawa curfew after sex charges
04 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan police probe US base attack
16 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
US soldier guilty of sex killing
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