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Okinawa reelects governor opposing heavy US troop presence

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Okinawa’s incumbent governor who opposes an ongoing U.S. Marine base relocation forced by Japan’s central government and calls for a further reduction of American troops on the southern island secured his reelection on Sunday despite concerns of escalating tensions between China and nearby Taiwan.

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki, who is backed by opposition parties, was certain to win his second four-year term, according to exit polls by major Japanese media, including NHK national television and Kyodo News agency. Polls were held Sunday before his first four-year term is to end later this month.

Tamaki and his supporters declared his victory and celebrated with the chants of “banzai” soon after the exit poll results showed he beat two contenders — Atsushi Sakima, backed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s governing bloc, and another opposition-backed candidate Mikio Shimoji. Final vote counts are expected early Monday.

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

The plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded neighborhood to a less populated area on the island has already been delayed for years. Okinawans call it a new construction rather than a relocation and want the Futenma base closed down and removed from the island.
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