Japan’s Okinawa still opposes to US base relocation

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The Okinawa Governor said the people of Okinawa reelected him to express their own opposition to the plans to relocate the US base within Okinawa…reports Asian Lite News

Japan’s Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki has said his re-election underscored local opposition to the Japanese government’s contentious plans to relocate a US military base within the island.

“It is an undeniable fact that I was elected by the people who oppose the relocation plan, meaning the Okinawans true feelings have not changed,” he told local media on Monday, a day after securing his second four-year term as Governor of Okinawa.

Tamaki, 62, whose election campaign was largely based on his opposition to the government’s plan to relocate the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, secured more than half the votes in Sunday’s gubernatorial election, Xinhua news agency reported.

Opposition-backed Tamaki beat former Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima, who was supported by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition, and was a proponent of relocating the US base within the island, as well as former lawmaker Mikio Shimoji.

The Okinawa Governor said the people of Okinawa reelected him to express their own opposition to the plans to relocate the US base within Okinawa, adding that Okinawans want to have their overall US base-hosting burdens lifted.

Along with saying he would visit Tokyo in person to urge the Central government to abandon its plan to relocate the base, he also suggested he may employ other means, including dialogue with the international community.

The local Okinawa and Central governments have long-been at odds over the relocation of the base, with local Okinawans feeling their occupation by US forces has continued long beyond 1972 when Okinawa was officially reverted to Japanese control.

Okinawa hosts the majority of US bases in Japan, yet the tiny subtropical island accounts for a tiny fraction of Japan’s land mass.

The disproportionate number of US bases hosted by Okinawa has been a protracted source of tension for its local citizens.

They have had to endure a near-constant string of US military-linked accidents and mishaps involving aircraft, firing drills and pollution, as well as some heinous crimes involving US military and military-linked personnel, as widely reported.

LDP election chief Hiroshi Moriyama, however, told reporters on Monday that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his government still plans to move ahead with the relocation plan.

The contentious plan is based on a pact made between the United States and Japan in 1996, with the coastal region of Henoko being selected as the replacement site in 1999.

Okinawans have effectively voted for the base to be relocated outside the island or Japan altogether in the latest gubernatorial election as well as in similar elections held in 2014, 2018 and a referendum in 2019.

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