Published: Mon, February 25, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Okinawa: Tokyo to overrule referendum on United States base

Okinawa: Tokyo to overrule referendum on United States base

The Japanese government will proceed with the controversial relocation of a USA air base within Okinawa Prefecture despite over 70 percent of voters rejecting the move in a local referendum, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying Monday it "cannot be postponed any further".

A replacement base is on a coastal landfill in an area called Henoko.

"The referendum has underlined once again Okinawa's strong opposition to the relocation", Yoshinobu Yamamoto, professor of politics at the University of Niigata prefecture, told AFP news agency. Defense minister Takeshi Iwaya said Tuesday that Japan's central government would not entertain moving the approximately 30,000 US troops stationed in Okinawa off island due to Okinawa's strategic importance.

The referendum asks: "On the landfill for the construction of the us military base planned by the government in Henoko, Nago city, to replace Futenma air base", with the answers being: "I agree", "I oppose", and "Neither".

Some 72 percent voted against the move, with 19 percent in favour in a vote that drew 52 percent of eligible voters, officials said.

Many residents have long hoped for the Futenma base to be moved outside of Okinawa, which continues to host the bulk of USA military facilities in Japan as a legacy of the us military occupation of the prefecture from the end of World War II to 1972.

Washington also agreed to transfer some personnel to the US Pacific territory of Guam.

Poor Rami Malek took a fall off stage following his Oscar win
Malek has already won the best actor awards at both the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes for his role in " Bohemian Rhapsody ". A very quick photographer happened to snap the moment Malek took a tumble, though he was quickly helped up by onlookers.


Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki was elected on that platform in September. "There are, in fact, many people in the LDP who are opposed to the Henoko project, but they didn't want to say so in a public referendum", said Okinawa Upper House member Yoichi Iha.

According to exit polls with 1,760 voters, about 37 percent of "no" voters said they opposed the relocation plan as they think Okinawa needs no more bases, while almost 82 percent of the total respondents said the central government should respect the outcome of the referendum.

Prior to the referendum, some voters expressed concern that a rejection of the plan could lead to the Futenma base remaining in its current location, while others questioned whether Okinawa should sacrifice the marine ecosystem off the Henoko coast - home to an endangered species of dugong - for the land reclamation work. The sentiments have resonated not only with the residents of the subtropical islands of Okinawa but also the rest of Japan and internationally.

Japan relies heavily on the US for its defense, and the government has said it will not abide by the referendum, even if the Henoko plan is rejected.

Speaking after casting her ballot at a local school, voter Yuki Miyagaki said: "They are using a lot of tax money and manpower for this referendum, even though the result will not have any legal power". The public broadcaster NHK said a majority of voters had come out against the move supported by the Japanese and United States governments.

Polls opened early on Sunday morning, with about 1.15 million Okinawans eligible to vote. They must "discuss and resolve the root of the issue; closing the MCAS Futenma and return the land to Okinawa as soon as possible".

Many residents have long hoped for the Futenma base to be moved outside of Okinawa, which continues to host the bulk of US military facilities in Japan as a legacy of the USA military occupation of the prefecture from the end of World War II to 1972. Opponents of the move want to see the base relocated outside of Okinawa, arguing responsibility for hosting U.S. troops should be more evenly spread across Japan.

Like this: