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25 Feb, 2019 12:38

Japan’s Abe says US military base to be relocated regardless of referendum results

Japan’s Abe says US military base to be relocated regardless of referendum results

Tokyo will proceed with its controversial plan to expand the US military presence in the city of Nago on the southwestern island of Okinawa, despite residents overwhelmingly voting against it.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he will take the results of the vote “very seriously” and work to “reduce” the base-hosting burdens on the locals but the government will continue on with the project anyway. 

“We can’t postpone it any longer,” he stressed.

We cannot avoid the necessity of moving Futenma [base], said to be the most dangerous base in the world.

The same message was conveyed by Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya who promised to continue explaining the need for the base to the locals “in a polite and cordial manner,” all while the government “advances” with the construction works.

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On Sunday, in a non-binding referendum 72 percent of Okinawans voted against the landfill works for the base relocation, with only 19 percent voting in favor. Tokyo and Washington had been planning for decades to move the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located on another part of the island, to the town of Nago, which already hosts a US army installation, Camp Schwab.

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The planned relocation was suspended numerous times due to the fierce resistance campaign waged by residents and local politicians, including the current governor, Denny Tamaki. The issue of US military presence remains highly controversial in Okinawa and has sparked large-scale anti-base protests in the past.

Voters in Okinawa previously rejected plans to move the US bases in 1997 and 2006.

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