Roundup: Japanese gov't to push forward U.S. base relocation despite local opposition

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20.01.2014 - 09:58

Roundup: Japanese gov't to push forward U.S. base relocation despite local opposition 
2014-01-20 06:40:20  

  Roundup: Japanese gov't to push forward U.S. base relocation despite local opposition

     TOKYO, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government said Monday that the country will move forward the Japan-U.S. agreement to relocate the controversial U.S. Futenma airbase to Nago city in Okinawa Prefecture, although Susumu Inamine, an opponent against the plan, was re-elected Nago Mayor on Sunday.

     Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Monday pledged that Japan will make "steady progress" on the relocation plan, adding Inamine's victory will not "immediately have a direct impact" on the relocation issue.

     The U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station is now located at a crowed residential area in the island prefecture's Ginowan area and under the Japan-U.S. plan, the airbase will be moved to Nago city's Henoko area.

     Meanwhile, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday that there is no change in the Futenma relocation plan and used "disappointing" when commented on the Nago mayor race.

     The Japanese top government spokesman added that the current transfer plan is the "only solution" to remove danger and maintain deterrence in the region, according to local reports.

     Sanae Takaichi, policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was quoted by local media as saying that the party will do what it needs to do in a resolute manner, indicating that the party will aim for the transfer as planned.

     However, the outcome of the Nago mayoral election has showed the deep divergence between local residents and the Japanese central government as a majority of voters said they are against the relocation plan.

     According to exit polls conducted by Japan's Kyodo News, about 65 percent voters in Sunday's mayoral election oppose the planned relocation of the Futenma airbase.

     The polls said that 65.4 percent of 1,204 respondents at 12 voting stations in Nago were opposed the Japan-U.S. transfer plan, while 13.3 percent supported it.

     The survey also showed that a total of 91.5 percent of those against the relocation said they had voted for Inamine, who has pledged to block the plan.

     Last month, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, who originally opposed against relocating the air station within Okinawa, changed his stand and approved the controversial plan that the central government asked for landfill work to build the new military facility for the Futenma airbase.

     Nakaima's decision came after the central government on Dec. 24 unveiling its policy to continue providing at least 300 billion yen (about 2.88 billion U.S. dollars) for the island prefecture's development every year through fiscal 2021.

     The polls, however, said that a total of 52.7 percent of the surveyed said they do not expect much from such financial support.

     The Okinawa prefectural assembly urged Nakaima earlier this month to resign through a resolution for reneging on his own election pledge to have the Futenma base moved outside Okinawa.

     But the governor denied the possibility of stepping down following Inamine's win and said he will not to review the approved landfill work. "Since it was already approved, there is no way we can do anything about it," he was quoted by Kyodo as saying.

     Inamine, for his part, said Sunday after his victory that he will "refuse all" consultations and procedures that are linked to the approved landfill work needed to build a new base in a coastal area of Nago.

     As the mayor has authority to approve the use of ports and roads, the planned construction of new military facility for the Futenma would be significantly affected, local analysts said.

     They added that Inamine's victory has punched the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration and would become a new thorny issue that would have further impacts on the Japan-U.S. alliance.

     The prime minister's LDP said Sunday in its working policy for 2014 that the ruling party will continue to enhance bilateral alliance between Japan and the United States.  Enditem