LEAD: 2 U.S. minesweepers enter Ishigaki port amid residents' opposition+
Apr 2 11:22 PM US/Eastern
opposition+ (AP) - NAHA, Japan, April 3 (Kyodo)—(EDS: UPDATING WITH INFO ON PROTEST, CAPTAIN REMARKS IN 4TH- 6TH GRAFS)
U.S. Navy minesweepers the Patriot and the Guardian entered the port of Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture on Friday while local residents opposed the move.
It is the second time a U.S. military ship has called in a private port in Okinawa Prefecture since the prefecture's reversion to Japanese administration from U.S. rule in 1972, following a port call by the two vessels at Yonaguni Island in 2007.
The two 1,300-ton minesweepers are based in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.
As the vessels appeared, some 100 protesters at the pier, including labor union members, chanted, "U.S. warships, go away!"
Ishigaki Mayor Nagateru Ohama told a rally Friday, "Ishigaki port is a civilian port and it is not a place for calls by U.S. warships."
The Patriot's captain, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Shu told reporters that the port call demonstrates the U.S. Navy's determination to contribute to defense of Japan and stability in East Asia.
The U.S. side explained the reason for the port call as a gesture of goodwill and friendship as well as providing some rest for the crew.
But some experts assume that the U.S. military may be gathering info as it possibly aims to use port facilities on Ishigaki in the event of contingencies, including ones involving Taiwan.
The Okinawa prefectural government has also requested that the U.S. forces refrain from making port calls "except for emergency situations."
These frackers are cutting into my drinking time right now, they have the pier gate blocked off and we aren't allowed to leave, our vans can't get through. I understand that they are protesting against what we represent, but godamnit, there is no one more anti-war than us, no one on this ship wants to get shot at. All we are trying to do is go into town and get a couple of beers, maybe some hookers and have a good time before we go underway again and these assholes won't let us out. These are the same people that would be begging us for help if Korea or China decided to start some shit in this part of the world.