TOKYO — Political leaders from Okinawa and their supporters staged a protest Jan. 27 in the Japanese capital Tokyo against the heavy U.S. military presence in their southern prefecture.
Organizers said some 4,000 people marched through the glitzy Ginza shopping district holding banners reading “Firmly against Osprey,” a tilt-rotor U.S. military aircraft said by opponents to be prone to accidents.
The rally was among the biggest involving Okinawan mayors and politicians since the island chain was returned to Japan from U.S. control in 1972, according to national broadcaster NHK.
Police declined to estimate the number of demonstrators.
Marchers protested that the rest of Japan discriminates against Okinawa by forcing it to host more than half of the 47,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan.
Okinawan residents have long opposed the heavy U.S. military presence due to accidents and crimes committed by American soldiers.
“Our anger has been boiled to its peak,” Takeshi Onaga, mayor of Naha city which is the prefectural capital, told the rally.
Okinawan leaders hope to meet government ministers Jan. 28 to press their case.
It was the latest of a series of protests and rallies held by Okinawan leaders and their supporters, as Tokyo attempts to expand its military alliance with Washington in the face of a more confident China.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also pledged to strengthen his own country’s military as Tokyo and Beijing intensify disputes over islands in East China Sea.