By Eva Cheng
The alleged rape of a 12-year-old Japanese girl by three US soldiers on September 4 in Okinawa has produced a public outcry against US bases in Japan. Three US soldiers were reported to have arrest warrants issued against them on September 8, but were able to avoid arrest. They were protected by the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement, part of the military alliance between the two countries since World War II. Under the agreement, Japanese jurisdiction does not apply to members of the US forces until the suspects are charged.
The case angered local residents, who feared that the suspects would be able to avoid prosecution, like many of their predecessors. There have been more than 4500 cases of crimes committed by US servicemen — including 12 murders — in Okinawa since 1972, the year when it reverted to Japan's control.
"This [the rape] happened because the military bases are here", Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota said. Many previous attempts to prosecute US suspects had been unable to proceed after they "disappeared" while in army refuge.
Okinawa women were planning a special protest against the bases in late September. Local residents claim that many rapes go unreported.
Many Japanese city, town and village assemblies were said to be planning to adopt protest resolutions against the continuation of US bases. The Gushikawa city assembly did so on September 11 and the Okinawa city assembly the next day. The Okinawa governor was reportedly sent to Tokyo by the local assemblies to press for an end of US bases in Okinawa.
The Communist Party of Japan demanded the removal of US bases and an end to the Japan-US Security Treaty.
The Okinawa bases proved critical for the US in its wars against Korea in 1951-53 and against Vietnam in the 1960s and '70s.
Tens of thousands of Japanese took to the streets in 1960 to protest against renewing the pact. The pact is up for renewal again in November, and the Japanese ruling class has indicated support. But more and more Japanese people are saying "no".
Rape focuses anger at US bases in Japan
By Eva Cheng
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