People take part in a protest in Okinawa, Japan, May 14, 2022, asking to reduce the U.S. base-hosting burdens of the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa. (Xinhua/Zhang Xiaoyu)
Japan's Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said the people of Okinawa reelected him to express their opposition to the plans to relocate the U.S. base within Okinawa.
TOKYO, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- Japan's Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said Monday his reelection underscored local opposition to the Japanese government's contentious plans to relocate a U.S. 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," Tamaki told local media 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 U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, secured more than half the votes in Sunday's gubernatorial election.
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 U.S. base within the island, as well as former lawmaker Mikio Shimoji.
Police officers hold back protesters who demand the reduction of the U.S. base-hosting burdens and even a total withdrawal of the U.S. forces in Okinawa, Japan, May 15, 2022. (Xinhua/Zhang Xiaoyu)
Tamaki said the people of Okinawa reelected him to express their own opposition to the plans to relocate the U.S. base within Okinawa, adding that Okinawans want to have their overall U.S. 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 U.S. forces has continued long beyond 1972 when Okinawa was officially reverted to Japanese control.
Okinawa hosts the majority of U.S. bases in Japan, yet the tiny subtropical island accounts for a tiny fraction of Japan's land mass.
The disproportionate number of U.S. 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 U.S. military-linked accidents and mishaps involving aircraft, firing drills and pollution, as well as some heinous crimes involving U.S. 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.■