Host Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed leaders and other representatives at Ise Jingu, the country’s most-revered Shinto shrine, under the island’s unpredictable weather.
Abe’s efforts on inspiring a brotherhood chemistry among the “Fantasy Seven” members are seemingly hampered by the long-lasting Okinawa irk.
U.S. servicemen or contractors at Okinawa’s bases have been gaining limelight for crimes against locals over the past decades.
The trouble between the U.S. and Japan dated back in 1995, when a 12-year-old schoolgirl was gangraped by three U.S. soldiers.
A number of similar cases have since been reported.
The rape and murder of a local woman earlier this month drew more than 4,000 protesters on the Okinawa Island Wednesday, a day before the Ise-Shima summit.
It renewed controversy over heavy U.S. military presence in Okinawa, as U.S. President Barack Obama is in Japan for the G7 summit.
Obama and Abe discussed the incident on Wednesday, days after the Japanese police arrested Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a 32-year-old former U.S. Marine who confessed to stabbing and strangling the woman, Rina Shimabukuro, and then dumping her body in a wooded area near the U.S. base where he worked.
Obama told the media “the U.S. is appalled by any violent crime that may have occurred that may have been carried out by any U.S. personnel or contractors.”
He vowed to fully cooperate with the Japanese legal system in making sure “justice is served.”
Abe told Obama his country’s “profound resentment” over the confessed killing of the 20-year-old Japanese woman, outside an U.S. military base in Okinawa.
“I’m just speechless,” Abe told a press conference. “The entire Japan is deeply shocked by this latest incident.”
The Japanese prime minister has lodged a protest with Obama over the incident a week earlier.
Diplomats from both countries have been in a hard bid to contain the fallout, but Okinawa residents have been fed up with the U.S. military bases.
Protesters have been pushing Tokyo and Washington to deal with the over-presence of U.S. military on the “Cold War islands.”
The islands saw one of the bloodiest battle during World War II.
After the U.S. occupation in 1945, the Okinawa Prefecture has been a key strategic post for the U.S. military.
Okinawa, with a land less than 1 percent of Japan, is home to more than a dozen U.S. bases, 70 percent of all U.S. bases in the country.
Okinawa’s security burden has been at the center of a long-term standoff between the prefecture and Japan’s central government.
Okinawa’s Governor Takeshi Onaga expressed disappointment on Wednesday that the U.S. and Japanese leaders failed to show a willingness to respond to calls to revise a bilateral accord defining the handling of U.S. base personnel in Japan in the wake of the brutal killing.
“It is extremely regrettable that there was no mention of amending the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement,” Onaga told reporters in Naha, capital of the prefecture, referring to the meeting on Wednesday evening between Abe and Obama.
The irk in Okinawa comes under the spotlight at “a bad timing,” when the United States and Japan are trying to boost their ties.
Analysts say Abe hopes to be credited for hosting Obama’s tour, especially when the U.S. president pays a visit to Hiroshima on Friday.
The U.S. military dropped an atomic bomb in the city on Aug. 6, 1945 to accelerate the end of WWII, during which Japan inflicted heavy losses and suffering on its Asian neighbors.
The two-day G7 summit is hopefully focused on topics including boosting the world economy and tackling terrorism, and experts wish certain countries would not bring issues of their own interests to the meeting table. Enditem