Abe to discuss Okinawa crime with Obama ahead of Group of Seven summit

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waves as he departs for major European countries at Tokyo's Haneda airport on May 1.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waves as he departs for major European countries at Tokyo's Haneda airport on May 1.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet US President Barack Obama on Wednesday (May 25) ahead of this week’s Group of Seven (G-7) summit, a Japanese Foreign Ministry source said, with one topic being how to prevent crime by workers from US military bases.

A US civilian working on a base on Okinawa island was arrested last week in connection with the murder of a Japanese woman.

Okinawa, the site of a bloody World War Two battle, hosts the bulk of US military forces in Japan and many residents resent what they see as an unfair burden.

Many also associate the bases with crime, pollution and noise. The rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by US military personnel in 1995 sparked huge anti-base demonstrations.

“The government is fully aware of the seriousness and graveness of the recent incident in Okinawa, and considering the feelings of the people, Prime Minister Abe will seek strict measures from President Obama,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said this week.

Mr Suga said the leaders would also discuss the global economy, bilateral ties and other regional and global issues.

“We’d certainly expect Okinawa to come up,” a US official said separately, adding the meeting was still being finalised.

Mr Obama is also set to make an historic visit to Hiroshima, site of the world’s first atomic bombing, on Friday, after attending the G7 summit.

Both governments are hoping the Hiroshima visit will showcase the strong alliance between the former wartime foes.

Concerns about the health of the global economy will top the agenda at the G7 summit, although full agreement on macro-economic policy looks hard to come by.

“I want to make this a summit at which the G-7 sends a clear, strong message to respond to all situations and contribute to the sustainable, strong growth of the world economy,” Mr Abe told reporters.

Summit topics also include terrorism, refugees, trade, cyber security and maritime security, including China’s assertiveness in the East and South China Seas, where Beijing has territorial disputes with Japan and several Southeast Asian nations.

The G-7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. The Japanese Foreign Ministry source also said Mr Abe would meet British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday.