Okinawans voted more than 10-to-1 Sunday in favor of a reduction of U.S. military bases on their islands, in a referendum aimed at pressuring Washington to pull out its troops.
With virtually all of the ballots counted late Sunday night, more than 90 percent of voters said there were too many U.S. troops on their southern islands, and that an agreement giving the troops special legal status should be changed.
“For half a century, our rights have been stepped on,” said Sotoya Gakiya, after casting his vote near Kadena Air Base, the Air Force’s largest outpost in the Pacific. “At least now we have had a chance to give our opinion.”
Sunday’s referendum was not legally binding, but it was being closely watched by officials in Tokyo and Washington as a gauge of public sentiment regarding one of the world’s most important security alliances.