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Okinawa Reelects Governor Opposing Heavy US Troop Presence

TOKYO – Okinawa’s incumbent governor who opposes an ongoing U.S. Marine base relocation compelled by Japan’s central authorities and requires an additional discount of American troops on the southern island secured his reelection Sunday regardless of issues of escalating tensions between China and close by Taiwan.

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki, who’s backed by opposition events, was sure to win his second four-year time period, in keeping with exit polls by main Japanese media, together with NHK nationwide tv and Kyodo News company. Polls have been held Sunday earlier than his first four-year time period is to finish later this month.

Tamaki and his supporters declared his victory and celebrated with the chants of “banzai” quickly after the exit ballot outcomes confirmed he beat two contenders – Atsushi Sakima, backed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s governing bloc, and one other opposition-backed candidate Mikio Shimoji. Final vote counts are anticipated early Monday.

Tamaki’s victory may deepen tensions between Okinawa and the central authorities.

The plan to maneuver U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded neighborhood to a much less populated space on the island has already been delayed for years. Okinawans name it a brand new development reasonably than a relocation and need the Futenma base closed and faraway from the island.

“My commitment to resolve the U.S. military base problem for the future of Okinawa has never been shaken,” Tamaki stated. He stated he’ll proceed his endeavor to convey Okinawans’ will to the central authorities.

During the marketing campaign, Tamaki additionally vowed to do extra to enhance Okinawa’s financial system. Tourism on the semitropical island recognized for its corals, marine life and distinctive tradition -was badly damage by the pandemic.

Resentment and frustration run deep in Okinawa due to the heavy U.S. presence and Tokyo’s lack of efforts to barter with Washington over the best way to stability the burden of internet hosting U.S. troops between mainland Japan and the southern island group.

Okinawa, the place one of many bloodiest battles in World War II was fought, was underneath American occupation till it returned to Japan’s management in 1972. Today, a majority of the 50,000 U.S. troops based mostly in Japan underneath a bilateral safety pact and 70% of U.S. army amenities are nonetheless in Okinawa, which accounts for under 0.6% of Japanese land.

Because of the U.S. bases, Okinawa struggled with noise, air pollution, accidents and crime associated to American troops, Tamaki stated.

Japan’s authorities has lately shifted the nation’s protection posture to southwestern Japan, Okinawa and its distant islands and is pushing to considerably bolster Japan’s army functionality and finances over the following 5 to 10 years, citing rising threats from China, North Korea and Russia.

Many in Okinawa are apprehensive concerning the rising deployment of Japanese missile defenses and amphibious capabilities on outer islands which can be near geopolitical sizzling spots like Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its personal and has threatened to make use of power to annex it if vital. Okinawan folks concern that they would be the first to be embroiled in a battle over Taiwan.

The Futenma base relocation plan developed after the 1995 rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl, wherein three U.S. servicemen have been convicted. The case reignited native opposition to the U.S. bases. The relocation has been delayed for years resulting from Okinawa’s resistance in addition to environmental and structural points within the Henoko space, the place the brand new base is meant to be arrange.