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Japanese governor wants relocation of US base in Okinawa halted

After winning 2nd term, Governor Tamaki vows to stop construction of new US military base in Okinawa

Riyaz ul Khaliq  | 12.09.2022 - Update : 13.09.2022
Japanese governor wants relocation of US base in Okinawa halted


After winning the second four-year term, the opposition-backed governor of Japan’s southern Okinawa province on Monday reiterated his demand that the relocation of a US military base should be halted.

However, the government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has insisted the US base within Okinawa will “only” be relocated from the Futenma district to the less-populated Henoko district within the province.

Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan government’s top spokesperson, said: “The relocation plan is the ‘only solution’ to alleviate the burden on Okinawa … the central government will not budge on its position.”

Governor Denny Tamaki, who won more than 50% of the votes during the gubernatorial election on Sunday, told media early Monday that he will move ahead with his campaign pledge “to stop the construction” of the new US military facility in Okinawa,” Kyodo News reported.

The government wants to move US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from Ginowan City to the Henoko district.

“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,” Tamaki said.

He may visit Tokyo to meet Kishida to discuss the issue.

Under a bilateral military pact, around 50,000 US soldiers are deployed in Japan, the bulk of them in Okinawa which has witnessed massive demonstrations against the US base relocation.

According to Tamaki, Okinawa, which was returned to Japan over 50 years ago by the US, hosts around 70% of all US military facilities in the country.

Last December, demonstrations were held against a landfilling project to relocate the US military base within the southern province.

Protesters sailed in boats and canoes to express their opposition to the planned relocation of an airbase belonging to the US Air Force in the Okinawa Island province.

This relocation plan dates back to 1996 when Japan and the US agreed to return the land occupied by the US air force in the Futenma district following nationwide outrage over the 1995 gangrape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl in Okinawa by three US servicemen.

The landfilling process began three years back.

Locals claim they have suffered US military-related accidents, including noise, crime, and accidents.

Amid opposition from the regional government, Japan’s central government had planned to construct V-shaped runways after reclaiming the land.

During his first term, Tamaki’s administration won a few legal battles against the central government over the relocation of the base.

If the construction progresses, it is expected to take 12 years for the US airbase to fully operationalize.

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