Tokyo, Sep 12 (EFE).- Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, who opposes American military presence in the strategic southernmost Japanese prefecture, has won a second four-year term.
The incumbent governor, supported by the opposition, defeated Atsushi Sakima in Sunday’s election, riding high on his campaign to prevent the construction of a new US military facility on the island prefecture.
The prefecture, which is geographically closer to Taiwan than Tokyo, is at the core of rising regional military tensions as China threatens to merge the self-governed island into the mainland.
The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner Komeito backed Sakima, 58.
He had committed to push for the relocation of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan to the less crowded Nago’s Henoko coastline area.
Okinawans seek relocation outside of the island after a series of incidents involving American soldiers.
Tamaki’s victory highlights the schism between central and regional governments over the US military facility.
“People in Okinawa have not wavered in their wishes (of halting the plan) even a bit,” said Tamaki, the official Kyodo news agency reported.
The 62-year-old politician said he would urge the central government to suspend the relocation.
The central government said it would go ahead with its plan to relocate the base.
“The result is the decision that the people of Okinawa have taken in the face of the problems of that prefecture,” central government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno said on Monday.
He noted that moving the base to a less crowded area “is the only way” out.
The Japanese and American governments approved the plan in 1996.
However, the relocation has got delayed due to opposition by the residents and politicians, including Tamaki.
The base is a frequent source of protests against the military presence in the prefecture.
The opponents argue that the relocation would have a high environmental impact.
They demand relocation of all US military stations outside Okinawa, which represents around 0.6 percent of the Japanese territory but is home to more than 70 percent of the military installations America has in the country.
The Okinawa group of islands, a highly strategic enclave, was returned to Japan in 1972 after the US left the country and returned political and economic sovereignty to Tokyo.
In a non-binding referendum in 2019, 70 percent of voters in the Okinawa archipelago opposed moving the base within the region.
Okinawan authorities took the case to several courts to overturn the project as it posed a threat to the environment and could be detrimental to residents.