NAHA, Okinawa — About 300 special Japanese riot police from the mainland were planning to return home this weekend now that the war in Iraq is over.

The national police officers were dispatched to Okinawa in mid-March to patrol major facilities on Okinawa, including U.S. military bases. But unlike the increased base security that followed the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States, the presence of riot police around the installations was toned down.

Instead of establishing a visible presence by parking their buses near base gates and standing guard at the gates, the riot police were barely noticeable as they patrolled public streets surrounding the bases.

That sat better with Okinawa officials, who have expressed concerns that such a visible presence would harm tourism. Following the terrorist attacks in the United States, Okinawa officials complained the highly visible security precautions were excessive and gave tourists the impression that Okinawa was a ripe terrorism target.

In all, 600 special riot police and 100 vehicles were sent to Okinawa to beef up security around the bases, power plants and other major utilities. Half of the group already has returned to their home prefectures, said a senior officer of the Okinawa Prefectural Police Security Department.

“After giving consideration to the present international and domestic situation surrounding terrorism activities, we determined that it would be appropriate to release them from duty,” he said.

“However, security on Okinawa remains a focus, because the potential danger of a terrorist attack continues to exist.”

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