Massive rally to protest ex-Marine accused of killing Okinawa woman

By Allen Cone   |   Updated May 25, 2016 at 12:50 PM
| License Photo

TOKYO, May 24 (UPI) -- Japanese protesting the rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman by a former U.S. Marine, who confessed to the crime, are planning a massive rally in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture.

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga is likely to attend the rally along with members of political parties, business and civic groups. A date and location has not been set.

Onaga asked Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday to set up a meeting for him with President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to arrive in Japan on Thursday.

"This is a crime simply because U.S. military bases exist [in Okinawa]," Onaga told reporters after meeting with Abe.

Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a former U.S. Marine who works for the U.S. military, was arrested on Thursday. He told police he dumped the corpse of 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro in a forested area around midnight on April 28 after raping and strangling the Japanese woman.

After Shinzato's arrest, around 2,000 people protested in front of a Marine base in central Okinawa on Sunday and called for the removal of U.S. bases on the island.

Protesters waved signs that read "Never forgive Marine's rape," "You, Killer, Go Home" and "Withdraw all the US forces from Okinawa," according to U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

Arranging the meeting would be "difficult," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference after a meeting between Onaga and Abe in Tokyo. "We think that issues related to security and diplomacy should be discussed between the central governments of the countries."

But Abe vowed to confront President Barack Obama at their planned meeting this week.

"I am extremely upset. I have no words," Abe said. "I demand that the United States take strict measures to prevent something like this from happening again."

Onaga said he wants to ensure the safety of residents and their property.

Despite constituting 0.6 percent of Japanese territory, Okinawa has 74 percent of U.S. military facilities in Japan. U.S. forces first occupied the island in 1945 and it remained a U.S. base until 1972 when it was returned to Japan.

Onaga, Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani and Minister for Okinawa Affairs Aiko Shimajiri joined some 800 relatives and friends at Shimabukuro's funeral on Saturday.

Several Okinawa Prefecture municipal assemblies unanimously passed resolutions Tuesday to protest the slaying, called for reducing U.S. bases in Okinawa and reviewing the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.

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