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Okinawa opposes the governor who opposes the large presence of the US military

TOKYO – The incumbent governor of Okinawa, who opposes the ongoing relocation of the US Marine Corps base forced by Japan’s central government and calls for further reduction of US troops on the southern island has secured re-election. election on Sunday despite concerns about escalating tensions between China and neighboring Taiwan.

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, who is backed by opposition parties, has certainly won a second four-year term, according to opinion polls by major Japanese media, including the media. National image NHK and Kyodo news agency. The polls are held on Sunday before his first four-year term ends at the end of this month.

Tamaki and his supporters declared his victory and celebrated with chants of “banzai” shortly after poll results showed he had defeated two candidates – Atsushi Sakima, backed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling bloc and another opposition-backed candidate Mikio Shimoji. The final vote count is expected early Monday.

Tamaki’s victory could increase tensions between Okinawa and the central government.

The U.S. Marine Corps’ plan to move Futenma Air Force Station from a crowded neighborhood to a less populated part of the island has been delayed for years. Okinawans call this new construction rather than resettlement and want the Futenma base to be closed and removed from the island.

“My commitment to solving the US military base issue for the future of Okinawa has never been shaken,” Tamaki said. He said he would continue to make efforts to convey the will of Okinawa to the central government.

During the election campaign, Tamaki also vowed to do more to improve Okinawa’s economy. Tourism on the semi-tropical island known for its coral, marine life and unique culture has been hit hard by the pandemic.

Anger and frustration pervaded Okinawa over the dense US presence and Tokyo’s lack of efforts to negotiate with Washington on how to balance the burden of receiving US troops between the Japanese mainland and the southern island group.

Okinawa, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War, was under American occupation until it returned to Japanese control in 1972. Today, the majority of the 50,000 American troops are stationed in Japan under a bilateral security treaty and 70% of US military facilities remain in Okinawa, which occupies only 0.6% of Japan’s land area.

Due to the presence of US bases, Okinawa struggles with noise, pollution, accidents and crime associated with the US military, Tamaki said.

The Japanese government in recent years has shifted the nation’s defense posture to southwestern Japan, Okinawa and its outlying islands and is pushing to significantly increase its military capabilities and budget. Japan within the next 5 to 10 years, due to growing threats from China, North Korea and Russia.

Many in Okinawa are worried about Japan’s growing deployment of missile defense systems and amphibious capabilities on outlying islands near geopolitical hotspots such as Taiwan, a self-governing island that China claims. Quoc claims it as its own and has threatened to use force for annexation if necessary. The people of Okinawa fear that they will be the first to be drawn into a conflict over Taiwan.

The plan to relocate the Futenma base was developed after the 1995 rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl, in which three US service members were convicted. The incident sparked a local outcry against US bases. The relocation has been delayed for years due to Okinawa’s resistance as well as environmental and structural problems in the Henoko area, where the new base was supposed to be set up.

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