October 8, 2009
[efoods]The new government is reviewing an agreement with Washington on US military facilities following through on a campaign pledge to islanders who have borne the brunt of the American presence for more than 60 years.
Around 50,000 American troops are based in Japan, around two-thirds of the total are in Okinawa. Resentment against their presence has grown in recent years due to a series of crimes committed by service personnel.
Many of the crimes are relatively trivial, but other cases have brought tens of thousands of protesters onto the streets. In February 2008, a case against a marine accused of raping a girl aged 14 was dropped after she withdrew the accusation, apparently to avoid the ordeal of a trial.
The case revived bitter memories of the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl in 1995 by three US servicemen.
Katsuya Okada, the foreign minister, said he wants the American military to remain in Japan but that the concentration on Japan’s most southerly islands needed to be reduced.