Spotlight: New governor resolves to block relocation of controversial U.S. base within Japan's Okinawa

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-04 20:58:24|Editor: xuxin
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TOKYO, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- New Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki whose four-year term officially began Thursday reiterated his stance on blocking the central government's plan to relocate a controversial U.S. military base within Japan's southernmost prefecture.

Tamaki won Sunday's gubernatorial election based on a campaign to block the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to the coastal region of Henoko in Okinawa. He said he will do his utmost to fulfill his predecessor's efforts.

"With my whole mind and body, I will do my best to achieve the return of the land occupied by the Futenma base as early as possible and halt the construction of a new base in Henoko," Tamaki was quoted by local media as telling a press briefing Thursday.

The 58-year-old governor has said that he was tasked by former governor Takeshi Onaga, a staunch opponent of the base relocation plan, prior to his death in August, to continue with his efforts to block the central government's base transfer plans.

Tamaki during the press briefing also implored the central government to take a "democratic approach to seek a solution to the base issue through dialogue."

The construction of the new base has been suspended following the prefectural government retracting a landfill permit approved by Onaga's predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, in 2013.

The retraction, according to prefectural officials, was as per Onaga's wish prior to his death.

Okinawans wanted to see the base moved off the island and out of Japan altogether.

Legal action against the central government's base relocation plans has been taken on numerous occasions by both the local government and civic groups in Okinawa who are becoming increasingly vexed by their base-hosting burdens and the environmental destruction caused by the U.S. bases and their activities.

Their latest legal case questions the legality of the landfill work and is partly based on the premise that the current construction work in Nago will irrecoverably damage the region's delicate ecosystem by crushing rocks as part of the land reclamation work.

The return of the land to Okinawa used for the Futenma base was agreed in 1996 between the United States and Japan and in 2006 both sides inked a deal, part of which included transferring the airfield to the Henoko region on the island.

Amid staunch opposition from local officials and residents of Okinawa, and as anti-U.S. sentiment rises on the tiny island in the wake of a number of heinous crimes committed by U.S. base-linked personnel, the central government maintains that shifting the base to Henoko remains "the only solution."

Tamaki, a radio presenter-turned-politician and former opposition lawmaker, comfortably won the Okinawa gubernatorial election on Sunday, beating former Ginowan mayor Atsushi Sakima who had the backing of the ruling coalition.

Tamaki said he will "convey the Okinawa people's will to oppose the base transfer to the central government."

"Mr. Onaga staked his life on achieving the mission of building no more bases in Okinawa. His wish was shared by people in the prefecture and led to my victory," Tamaki said.