The Japanese government is insistent that it will be pushing forward with the relocation of the United States Marines Airbase Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa to a coastal area in Nago City, still within the same prefecture – even as the newly elected Nago City mayor has vowed to do everything within his power to stop the process. The plan, pushed by the central government and approved by Okinawa’s prefectural government, has been long-delayed and Tokyo is looking to strengthen its ties with the U.S., it’s most significant political and economic ally.
The election results have been described by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s cabinet spokesman, as “very disappointing,” but Suga remains confident that the relocation plan will push through. Suga has also tried to play down the significance of the election result by saying that it “wouldn’t present an obstacle” to the implementation of the relocation, even though reelected Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine will have a say in some of the plans aspects. “The reclamation work will proceed as planned,” Mr. Suga emphasized. “Final authority on the permission fora landfill rests with the governor,” not the mayor, Suga added.
Residents of Okinawa, the country’s southernmost prefecture, have long demanded that the base be relocated outside of the prefecture altogether. This has been a constant complaint, with locals saying that Okinawa bears a disproportionate burden of hosting U.S. forces in Japan. Okinawa is home to just 1% of Japan’s total population, but hosts around 70% of U.S. military forces in Japan. After Tokyo seemingly sealed the deal for the relocation when Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima gave the green light to proceed with the reclaiming of land off the coast of Nago in December. But having drawn the ire of the U.S. with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe making a controversial visit to the Yasukuni war shrine last month, Tokyo is looking to make amends by implementing the 1996 base realignment agreement.
[via Wall Street Journal]