Japan OKs law to continue U.S. bases on Okinawa
Island governor, landowners denounce move
April 17, 1997
Web posted at: 10:18 a.m. EDT (1418 GMT)
From Correspondent John Lewis
TOKYO (CNN) -- Japan's parliament passed a controversial law
Thursday that gives the government the power to extend leases
for U.S. military bases on the island of Okinawa, even if
Approval of the bill came amid angry protests by landowners
and their supporters, who repeatedly halted the parliamentary
session, chanting anti-American slogans and calling the
legislation unconstitutional. Hundreds of demonstrators
staged a sit-in to protest the law outside the building in
Protests in Japan's parliament
(1.2 M/26 sec./160x120 Smaller QuickTime movie
or 3.0 M/26 sec./240x180 Larger QuickTime movie)
Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota denounced the measure.
"We regret this law," he said in a statement. "The law
discriminates against the Okinawan people and violates the
constitutional right to ownership of property."
The upper house approved the legislation by a majority vote,
giving a rubber stamp to last week's passage of the bill by
the more powerful lower house.
The final approval comes less than month before
thousands of leases expire on the small southern island, the
increasingly unwilling host of two-thirds of the 47,000 U.S.
troops in Japan. About 3,000 small landowners are refusing to renew leases that will expire May 14. But most landowners have agreed to the renewal, and the land of those who refused accounts for only a small portion of the territory used by the U.S. military.
Passage of the law comes ahead of a state visit to
Washington by Prime Minister Ryutaro, who is to meet with
President Clinton. Security issues will be a key item on the
Long-simmering opposition to the U.S. military presence
culminated in 1995 when three U.S. servicemen raped a
12-year-old Okinawan girl. That incident touched off massive
anti-U.S. demonstrations on the island and a call for the
removal of all U.S. military bases from the island
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