Okinawa base retrofitting given go-ahead despite a stern “no”

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The return to Japan of the land where the Futunma air station is located, and the relocation of its functions, was agreed upon by Japan and the United States in the 1990s. However, Okinawa residents and politicians have demanded that the functions be moved outside of their prefecture, which is currently home to about 70 percent of U.S. military facilities in Japan.


In the Feb. 24 prefectural referendum, 72.15 percent of voters opposed the land reclamation work off Henoko, 19.10 percent supported the project and 8.75 percent had “no opinion either way.” The results of the vote are not legally binding.


On the night of Feb. 24, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party issued a statement under the name of Fumio Kishida, chairman of the party’s Policy Research Council.


Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said the original point of the relocation issue is to remove the dangers of the Futenma air station from the crowded area of Ginowan and have the land returned to Japan.


Even before the official campaign kicked off for the referendum, Suga had repeatedly cast doubts on the purpose of the vote. The referendum asked voters whether they supported the land reclamation work off Henoko instead of whether they approved the relocation of the Futenma air station.


The central government has also failed to live up to its promise to the Okinawa prefectural government that operations at the Futenma air station would be halted within five years from mid-February 2014.


In fact, the central government still cannot show a schedule for when the Futenma operations will stop, and its emphasis on prioritizing safety in Ginowan is also falling flat.


Over the year, Okinawa Prefecture has strengthened its opposition to the Futenma relocation plan by, for example, electing anti-base candidate Denny Tamaki as governor in September.


A by-election in the Lower House Okinawa No. 3 constituency is scheduled for April while the Upper House election will be held in summer.


Reference: Abe moves ahead with base work in Okinawa after ‘no’ referendum


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