Published on Tuesday, July 18, 2000 by Agence France Press
Anti-US Military Protests Set To Overshadow Group of Eight Summit
OKINAWA ISLAND, Japan - Protests against US bases in Japan's Okinawa island, whipped up by a US marine's alleged sex crime, are set to buffet a Group of Eight leaders' summit this week.

The demonstrations begin shortly after US President Bill Clinton steps off a plane in Tokyo on Thursday for a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

And they will heat up when he participates in the three-day G8 summit starting Friday on the southern island of Okinawa, bristling with resentment over the American bases here.

Anti-globalization protests, that wrecked the World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle last December, are likely to be shoved into the background by the anti-American feeling.

Jubilee 2000, an international campaign to eradicate poor countries' debt, plans to organise a modest march of 200 people here on Friday.

"Our main goal is to gain the leaders' promise to write off all debts held by the world's poorest nations. We hope concrete results will come out of the summit," said Teruyo Otsuka, an official with Jubilee 2000 Japan.

Their action is likely to be dwarfed by the growing anti-US sentiment on the island, which plays host to two-thirds of the 47,000 US troops stationed in Japan under a joint security agreement.

Resentment has been smouldering since three US servicemen raped a 12-year-old girl in 1995.

The ill-feeling was reawakened when a drunken 19-year-old US marine was arrested July 3 on suspicion of breaking into an unlocked apartment in Okinawa City and molesting a 14-year-old girl.

That led to a peaceful demonstration on Saturday near the Kadena air base in Ginowan, in which 5,000 protesters filled an open-air concert hall waving red flags bearing the names of labour unions.

The next protest will coincide with the Clinton-Mori encounter in Tokyo, said Yoichi Takami, a member of the Japan Revolutionary Communist League's Revolutionary Marxist Faction, which is organising many of the demonstrations with the National Federation of Students' Self-Governing Associations.

"The Clinton-Mori summit is to reconfirm the importance of the US bases in Okinawa and we strongly oppose the presence of the US bases," Takami told AFP.

"Look at the latest assault by a US serviceman on an Okinawan girl. We can no longer tolerate such a gross violation of human rights," he said.

On the same day in Okinawa, up to 25,000 people are being organised to surround the US Kadena air base on the island.

"We want to tell the world that we, Okinawans, do not want to live with the US bases anymore," said Okinawa Peace Action Centre director-general Yoshikazu Nakasone.

"Since the end of World War II, we have been suffering under the dominating US military presence and all we want is to live in a base-free, peaceful society."

On Friday, the students and Marxists say they plan to organise a protest against a speech by Clinton at Okinawa's Peace Memorial Park, which was built to remember those who died in the bloody Battle of Okinawa at the end of World War II.

"The Japanese government is using the summit so as to reconfirm and justify the importance of the US bases in Okinawa," said Naoyuki Oyama, a 28-year-old student at Tohoku University and member of the students' federation.

"The summit is a mere pretext by strong powers to dominate the world with force," he said. "At the summit, the G8 nations will discuss how to contain China and North Korea and we oppose their military diplomacy."

The same student and Marxist groups plan further protests on Saturday and Sunday.

Separately, the ultra-radical Japan Revolutionary Communist League was planning a protest on Wednesday, another on Saturday during the G8 banquet and a final action on Sunday.

"The summit is the place for the US and its allies to discuss war," said league member Seiichi Ishikawa.

"We will not allow the summit to proceed smoothly," he warned. "We will not sit back quietly."

Copyright 2000 AFP