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Celebrations begin to recognize reversion anniversary

Date Posted: 2010-05-15

Celebrations and demonstrations are underway on Okinawa as citizens recognize the 38th anniversary of the island prefecture’s reversion from American to Japanese control.

The official anniversary is Saturday, and organizers have prepared a global peace series of marches calling for return of lands still held by the U.S. since its occupation days. A two-day march and a rally are key elements of the celebration, which began Friday. The celebration marks the 38th anniversary, but is also being linked to calls for Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to be moved outside of Okinawa.

A highlight is the plan for a human chain to be formed around Futenma on Sunday to protest the base’s operation in densely populated Ginowan City. Organizers say they expect between 20,000-30,000 people to take part in the effort starting at 2 p.m. Demonstrators hope to have enough people to encircle the 8.07 kilometer perimeter fence line of the Marine Corps air facility.

The three peace marches – each 30 kilometers long-- began on Friday, with one leg headed to Camp Hansen, with other marches passing Torii Station and Kadena Air Base Gate 1. Saturday’s activity is to begin at 9:30 in the Camp Foster area, and wind up with a 3 p.m. rally at Ginowan Seaside Park.

The annual celebration takes on additional impetus this year because of the upcoming decision on where to move Futenma. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s latest plan is to revert back to honor the 2006 agreement made between Japan and the United States, with several modifications. Instead of building two V-shape runways at the proposed site of Henoko, with the runways built on reclaimed land in Oura Bay, Hatoyama’s proposal is to build a single runway on stilts.

At the same time, Hatoyama wants to move part of Futenma’s flight operations to Tokunoshima Island north of Okinawa. That idea is fraught with danger, as neither the United States military or the Tokunoshima residents want it to happen.

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