- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2000

OKINAWA CITY, Japan Thousands of protesters formed a human chain around the gates of a U.S. air base Thursday as leaders of the world's seven leading industrial powers and Russia assembled on this World War II battleground island to discuss narrowing the gap between rich and poor countries.
En route to the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin picked up North Korea and China as allies in his campaign to derail American plans to build an anti-missile nuclear shield.
President Clinton set aside stalled Mideast peace-making efforts at Camp David to take part in his farewell summit of the Group of Eight.
"The Okinawa summit will create a framework to fight infectious disease, increase access to basic education and expand opportunity through information technology," Mr. Clinton said on the way to the meeting. "Despite a stronger global economy, too many people around the world live every day without essential health care, basic literacy or the opportunity to share in the benefits of modern technology."
The president's first scheduled event was a speech to the people of Okinawa at the island's Peace Park, where the black walls of a monument bear the names of 237,318 soldiers Japanese, American and British and civilians who perished in a ferocious, 82-day battle during World War II.
So fierce was the fighting that it convinced President Harry S. Truman that he had no alternative to using the atom bomb against Japan.
While Mr. Clinton was en route to the summit, Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers and the other G-8 leaders met with the heads of four of the world's poorest nations to explore how technology can close the gap between them.
"There was an agreement on the fundamentals for development, including the overwhelming importance of education," Mr. Summers said.
He said the meeting will produce specific suggestions at the summit.
The leaders of poor nations who attended were Chuan Leekpai, prime minister of Thailand; Olusegun Obasanjo, president of Nigeria; Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa; and Abdelaziz Bouteflika, president of Algeria.
Executives from the California-based Internet equipment provider Cisco Systems Inc. and other companies attended the discussions, along with experts on poverty from the United Nations and World Health Organization as well as World Bank President James Wolfensohn.
"It was a very productive and very interesting session that gathered a variety of perspectives that sets the stage for a G-8 that emphasizes development issues," Mr. Summers said.
On Okinawa, organizers estimated more than 25,000 protesters mobilized in a human chain stretching 11 miles around Kadena Air Base to oppose the heavy U.S. military presence on the island. About 30,000 members of the service are stationed there.
Police deployed about 22,000 officers, most flown in from other parts of Japan, but no violence was reported during one of the island's largest protests in years.
Protesters many of them accompanied by their children wore headbands with anti-base slogans. Organizers yelled into loudspeakers, "Clinton, take your troops home" and "We don't want your troops."
"As teachers, we have vowed never to send our students to war again," said Isao Kaneshiro, head of a local teachers' union. "I want President Clinton to know that we don't want his troops here."
Okinawa near the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, China and southeast Asia is considered by U.S. officials to be of crucial strategic importance. But many Okinawans say the U.S. presence is too heavy and want it reduced or eliminated.
Military-related crime is a frequent source of tension. The recent arrest of a 19-year-old Marine accused of breaking into a home and climbing into bed with a sleeping schoolgirl reignited anger.
"Most Okinawans welcome the summit," an editorial in the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper said. "But there are concerns as well. We are concerned that the bases, which cause such damage to us, will be praised by the summit leaders."
The G-8 the United States, Japan, Britain, Italy, Canada, Germany, France and now Russia has held summits each year for the past 25 years. This is the fourth summit Japan has hosted and the first it has held outside of Tokyo.
While Mr. Clinton flew to the island, Mr. Putin wrapped up the first visit by a Russian leader to North Korea. He was joined by the North's ruler, Kim Jong-il, in urging the United States to scrap the proposed missile shield. The two said North Korea's missile program, one reason the United States wants to build the shield, is meant for peaceful purposes and not attacks on other nations.
On Tuesday, Mr. Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin signed a statement denouncing the U.S. missile-shield plan. France and Germany share Russia's concerns that it could be destabilizing.
Russia said it will push at the summit for a write-off of Soviet-era debts, despite a bill passed Wednesday by the House of Representatives barring debt forgiveness until Russia shuts its intelligence listening post in Lourdes, Cuba.
The meetings are being held at a subtropical, seaside resort in the city of Nago. Officials are hoping it will put Okinawa on the international tourism map. The Foreign Ministry says the summit is expected to cost $750 million, including security, construction and road repairs.

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