Japan, US negotiate reduction of troops in Okinawa

Tokyo, June 23 (IANS) Following growing protests among locals against the presence of US troops, Japan is negotiating with the US a possible reduction of the latter’s military deployment in the Okinawa prefecture, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Thursday.

“As well as lodging a protest to the US and personally informing President Barack Obama of the severe shock felt by the Japanese people, I have urged Washington to act stringently by taking thorough measures to prevent similar incidents,” said Abe at the commemoration ceremony of the 71 years of the Battle of Okinawa that was marked by protests against US troops following the murder of a young Japanese woman, allegedly by a former marine.

Abe added that he is negotiating possible changes in the bilateral agreement signed between the two countries in 1960 on military bases in Japanese territory to reduce the burden on Okinawa, which shelters most of these facilities.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga demanded a drastic review of the agreement that regulates jurisprudence on these bases and their staff, and which guarantees legal protection for Americans and violates fundamental rights of the local population.

The ceremony comes four days after 50,000 people protested in Naha against the US military presence and recent incidents.

In May, the Japanese police had arrested a former US marine working on the Kadena base in Okinawa, for allegedly raping and murdering a 20-year-old woman.

Two weeks later, a US soldier was arrested for drunk driving and causing a serious crash.

The Battle of Okinawa (April 1 to June 22, 1945) was the only ground invasion of US in Japan during Second World War, and occurred just months before the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the surrender of Japan.

The bloody conflict lasted three months and claimed the lives of nearly 94,000 Okinawans.

–IANS

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