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Rumsfeld receives frosty reception on Sunday visit

Date Posted: 2003-11-21

U.S. Secretary of Defense received frosty treatment from Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine and local demonstrators when he visited the prefecture Sunday. He didn’t fare much better as he traveled to the U.S. Marine Corps Base nearby, as some 300 demonstrators gathered outside the main gate of Camp S.D. as Rumsfeld was visiting to have lunch with Marines. Demonstrators held signboards reading “Stop attacking Iraq!” and “Go home!” They also chanted slogans urging the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq.

Rumsfeld’s visit to Okinawa was part of his three-day schedule in Japan, the main purpose of which was to discuss Japan’s promised troops and other contributions to rebuilding Iraq.

While in Tokyo before arriving Okinawa, he met with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and other leaders. Later Sunday about an equal number of demonstrators gathered outside the Prefectural Building in Naha, where Rumsfeld met Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine for about 40 minutes.

During that meeting Inamine urged Rumsfeld to work towards reducing the number of American bases and troops in Okinawa further. Rumsfeld pointed out that according to SACO agreement, the U.S. has returned eleven facilities and is scheduled to return more as the agreements are implemented.

Inamine also urged Rumsfeld to accept the 15-year limit on use of the replacement base for MCAS Futenma that Inamine has insisted on since he was elected Governor. Rumsfeld replied that he could not go into any specifics on the matter, but he said that the U.S. is in the process of reorganizing its military structure worldwide.

Of other specific questions brought up by Inamine, Rumsfeld denied that the U.S. Navy sonar use around the waters surrounding Japan cause any harm to fish or other marine life. He also said that according to report he has received, the noise from exercises on the U.S. bases is down.

The atmosphere was reportedly less than friendly throughout the meeting as Rumsfeld felt that the questions raised by Inamine should be discussed on the national government level and not raised by a local governor. At the end of the meeting, Rumsfeld left seemingly irritated, and Inamine did not greet him good-bye.

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