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Kishida pledges to help Okinawa reel in more foreign tourists

Kyodo

In a meeting with Gov. Takeshi Onaga, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida vowed Sunday to support efforts to attract more foreign tourists to Okinawa Prefecture

“Okinawa can be a model” for other governments trying to invite foreign tourists and investment to boost local economic growth, Kishida said at the meeting in Naha.

The prefecture is one of the most popular tourist spots in Japan and boasts numerous beach resorts. Japan aims to attract 40 million tourists a year by 2020, when it hosts the Tokyo Olympics.

The meeting comes amid a legal battle between the central government and Okinawa over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan.

Onaga wants the base removed from the prefecture, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan. Tokyo has been trying to shift it further north on the island to Nago for decades.

The governor repeated his opposition to the relocation plan, saying “it is extremely regrettable.”

Kishida also explained a pact signed last month between Japan and the United States to effectively remove legal protections enjoyed by some U.S. base workers as a move that could help deter base-linked crimes in Okinawa.

Onaga said Tokyo has not worked hard enough to achieve its goal of halting operations at the Futenma base as planned by February 2019. He demanded that Tokyo make a greater effort to ease the burden shouldered by residents.