24 May 2015, TOKYO (TSR) – Thousands of demonstrators formed a human chain around Japan’s parliament in Tokyo on Sunday, protesting on the planned construction of a new US airbase on the southern island of Okinawa.
The protesters, who organizers said numbered about 15,000, surrounded the parliament building holding banners reading “No to Henoko”, in the latest rally against the controversial base, AFP reported.
Henoko is a small coastal area on Okinawa where Tokyo and Washington plan to relocate the existing Futenma military facility, currently situated in built-up Ginowan.
Okinawa is home to more than half of the 47,000 US service personnel stationed in Japan as part of a defense alliance, a proportion many islanders say is too high.
The plan to move Futenma, first mooted in 1996, has become the focus of anger among locals, who insist it should be shuttered and a replacement built elsewhere in Japan or overseas.
But both Tokyo and Washington have repeatedly backed the plan, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month insisting it was “the only solution”.
The protestors on Sunday also expressed opposition to Washington’s scheduled deployment of CV-22 Osprey aircraft at US Yokota Airbase in Tokyo.
More than two dozen Ospreys have been already deployed at Okinawa’s Futenma airbase, prompting safety concerns from local residents.
Sunday’s rally comes a week after 35,000 people on Okinawa, led by the anti-base governor, protested the new US base plan.