The ruling Democratic Party of Japan said Tuesday it will not field its own candidate in Okinawa’s November gubernatorial election, party lawmakers said.
The decision was due to a rift between DPJ headquarters, which backs the government plan to relocate a major U.S. air base within Okinawa, and the party’s local chapter, which is opposed to the policy and wants the base moved elsewhere.
According to the result of talks between Secretary General Katsuya Okada and party lawmakers from Okinawa, local DPJ members and supporters will not be required to vote for a specific candidate in the Nov. 28 contest.
Among the candidates running in the election are incumbent Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, whose stance has stiffened since the government ditched the idea of moving U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma out of the prefecture, and former Ginowan Mayor Yoichi Iha, who is against the planned relocation.
The DPJ head office and the Okinawa chapter have been discussing their stance on the gubernatorial race as the chapter insisted on the party fielding a candidate of its choice.
Okinawa task force
The government is considering setting up a new task force on the economic development of Okinawa, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said Tuesday.
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima called on the central government to create a new law on Okinawa’s development during the first meeting of a panel tasked with dealing with economic issues in the prefecture, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan under a bilateral security accord.
Nakaima urged the government to improve the legal framework to allow the prefecture to develop sites that will be vacated by the U.S. military and returned to Japan in the future.
The current special law on Okinawa’s development will expire at the end of March 2012. Sengoku said the envisioned task force is aimed at integrating all necessary work across central government offices for the prefecture’s future development.
The meeting at the prime minister’s office was organized as local opposition to the government remains strong over an agreement reached in May with the United States to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture.
“I hope that we will see some bright light,” Sengoku said at a news conference. “It is necessary to hold frank discussions with Okinawa.”