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Okinawa landowner fights U.S. lease renewal

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April 1, 1996
Web posted at: 12:40 p.m. EST (1740 GMT)

TOKYO (CNN) -- The owner of a parcel of land within a U.S. military compound on Okinawa went to court in Japan on Monday to fight signing a renewal of the U.S. lease.

chibana

Shoichi Chibana, an Okinawan who owns about 2,500 square feet (225 square meters) of land at the base, said the United States has been trespassing since the lease on the land expired at midnight Sunday.

Chibana vowed to block the military's illegal occupation of the land and claimed his court appearance a success.

"The strong anti-U.S. military feeling of the people of Okinawa and other Japanese have resulted in this illegal occupation starting from today. It is a victory, although it's a small one," Chibana said.

The Japanese government, despite Chibana's court appearance, maintains the U.S. military's right to occupy the land and promises to force the remaining landowners to renew all U.S. leases. The central government claims it has the right of eminent domain, and can take private property for public use if it deems it's in the public's best interest.

protest

Nearly 90 percent of the landowners in question have already signed the lease extensions. Most of the others will probably sign without further incident.

Anti-U.S. sentiment has intensified since three U.S. servicemen were convicted for raping a 12-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl last September. (366 QuickTime movie)

march

Since then, Tokyo and Washington have grown more sensitive to Okinawa's complaints. More than 90,000 Japanese staged protests Sunday to complain about the U.S. military presence.

Many Okinawans feel they bear too much responsibility for maintaining the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which stipulates Japan must house a U.S. military presence.

Since the treaty was signed in 1960, Okinawa has hosted close to 75 percent of the U.S. troops in Japan. Okinawa is now home to about 30,000 of 47,000 U.S. servicemen.

CNN Correspondent John Lewis and Reuters contributed to this report.

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