Japanese protest arrival of US stealth fighters

Several hundred protesters gathered outside a US air base Saturday to oppose the arrival of a dozen F-22 stealth fighters, the aircraft's first deployment outside of the United States. The demonstration was held outside the gate of Kadena Air Base, one of the largest US airfields in the Pacific, on the southern Japan island of Okinawa. About 500 protesters joined in, police said. The protest was peaceful, and no arrests were reported. The stealth fighters, the newest and most expensive in the US Air Force, were due to arrive from their base in Langley, Virginia on Saturday. Bad weather forced a delay, however, and officials said they were rescheduled to arrive here on Sunday. About 50,000 US troops are stationed in Japan under a mutual security pact. Most of them are based on this small, crowded island, and tensions over potential accidents, land use and troop-related crimes are endemic. Tokyo and Washington agreed on the deployment, wich is to last three months, as a means of boosting the US military's readiness and deterrent abilities, and because they say it provides a valuable training experience for the fighter pilots and their support teams.