Japanese Voices Protest U.S. Presence Outside of Air Base; "Give Bs back Our Peaceful Life!"

On Saturday, the 51st anniversary of the island's return to Japanese rule, thousands of Japanese protesters gathered close to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa to voice their opposition to the US occupation of the territory. The annual protest takes place as regional tensions rise as the US bombards Taiwan with armaments, which China considers as a direct act of provocation.

The demonstrators yelled "Give us back our peaceful life!" and "Osprey get out!" in reference to US military helicopters as they called for the closure of the US bases in Okinawa. The people of the island are tired of the chemical and aural pollution that Washington's military outposts produce, as well as the large number of crimes committed by American servicemen and women, ranging from drunk driving and petty theft to rape and murder. 

Governor Denny Tamaki has encouraged the governments of Japan and the US to lessen the Pentagon's presence on the island, which is home to 70% of all US military facilities in Japan despite making up just 1% of the nation's total land area. 

The protests coincide with Japan being a focal point in the US-China great-power conflict as it becomes more military. Just a month after hosting Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen for a highly contentious "unofficial" visit that prompted Beijing to issue threats and launch significant military exercises, the US recently expedited a $500 million defence package to Taiwan. With US soldiers stationed in Okinawa, Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force conducted its first-ever extensive maritime exercise last year, simulating scenarios meant to discourage "competitor and adversary aggression." 

As a result of inviting its regional allies, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand, to its annual summit in a signal of increased focus on Beijing, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization last year abandoned the pretence of limiting itself to the "North Atlantic" part of the name. 

It is well known that, should a conflict break out between the two nations, the US would organize operations from its facilities in Japan, making Japan a possible target for Chinese retribution. 

Japan adopted its largest-ever defence budget last year and wants to quadruple defence expenditure to 2% of GDP by 2027, making it the world's third-largest defence budget after the US and China, in an effort to develop "counterstrike capability." Although the language of the constitution was relaxed in 2017, this indicates a substantial strategic shift away from the primarily defensive posture Tokyo has been obligated to maintain since the end of World War II.

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