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Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
Anti-base assembly in Nago
Candidates who support Mayor Susumu Inamine of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, an opponent of the Japan-U.S. plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan in the central part of Okinawa Island to the less populated Henoko area of Nago, won a majority in the city's assembly in Sunday' election. The election results show that the central government's efforts to gain local acceptance of the relocation plan are likely to face increasing difficulty.
To reduce the overall burden on Okinawan people, the central government plans to have the United States return some military facilities located south of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, to Japan. It also plans to extend a special law — beyond its scheduled expiration at the end of fiscal 2011 — to promote the development of Okinawa.
The Nago election results indicate that local people won't accept the relocation plan under any quid pro quo. The outcome of the coming Okinawa gubernatorial election will indicate how much more resistance is in store for the central government.
Mr. Inamine was elected mayor in January, beating the incumbent Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, who had expressed readiness to accept the relocation plan. Until Sunday, the Nago assembly was balanced: 12 assembly members were pro-Inamine; 12 were anti-Inamine; and three were neutral. On Sunday, 16 pro-Inamine candidates were elected against 11 anti-Inamine candidates.
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima says the relocation of Futenma functions to Henoko is "very difficult." But he does not oppose the relocation plan outright, because it will remove current dangers to Ginowan citizens. Mayor Yoichi Iha of Ginowan, who has announced his candidacy for the Nov. 28 gubernatorial election, clearly opposes relocation within Okinawa Prefecture.
Since the governor has the power to approve, or not approve, a land reclamation plan in the Henoko area needed for the relocation, Mr. Iha, if elected, could stop the relocation. The central government should realize that it may have to rethink the relocation plan even as the U.S. strongly resists further changes.