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Japanese Coast Guard deters seaborne protesters near Marine base on Okinawa

A view of Camp Schwab, a Marine Corps base in the northern part of Okinawa, on Nov. 9, 2017.

HAILEY CLAY/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By STARS AND STRIPES | Published: June 26, 2018

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa —  More than 170 seaborne protesters descended on Oura Bay, Okinawa, Monday to protest construction of a new runway that would support relocation of forces from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The protesters, in 70 canoes and nine other boats, gathered at Henoko fishing port at about 8:30 a.m. before making their way to the coastal side of Camp Schwab, a Marine Corps base in the northern part of the island, Okinawa Times newspaper reported.

Protesters crossed floats meant to mark the runway’s construction area but were removed by 10 boats from Japan’s 11th Regional Coast Guard, Japanese police and Coast Guard officials said. No arrests were made.

The protest was one of the largest to come from the sea to date.

A small but fervent protest movement has been fighting for years to see U.S. military air operations moved off Okinawa.

Construction of the runway at Schwab is considered the cornerstone of a decades-long relocation, which will see Futenma, located in a densely packed urban area in central Okinawa, shuttered.

Landfill work for the runway is scheduled to begin Aug. 17 but anti-base Gov. Takeshi Onaga has vowed to block the project.

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