NAGO, Okinawa Pref. — The Nago Municipal Assembly adopted a resolution Thursday that supports the relocation of a key U.S. Marine Corps heliport to the city, setting the stage for Mayor Tateo Kishimoto to officially accept the project as early as Monday. The resolution, submitted by members of the ruling camp, passed 17-10 in the 30-member assembly at the end of a marathon session that continued overnight amid resistance from the opposition camp. Two members affiliated with New Komeito abstained. After the assembly’s vote, Kishimoto said at a news conference that he sees the resolution as “a major factor to be considered when I make the decision (on the issue).” Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine last month picked Nago’s Henoko district, near Camp Schwab, as the candidate site for a new heliport that would take over the operations of Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, central Okinawa. Inamine issued a statement that said he is “deeply grateful the Nago assembly understood the prefecture’s thinking.” Kishimoto’s approval will pave the way for the central government to make a Cabinet decision on the project, which is a key part of the 1996 Japan-U.S. agreement on reorganizing U.S. military bases in Okinawa. The decision by the assembly comes two years after 53 percent of Nago residents voted in a plebiscite to oppose construction of the new heliport in the area. Opponents say they may seek Kishimoto’s ouster once he officially approves the construction. The resolution, while supporting the heliport relocation, urges the city and the central government to conclude an agreement on the use of the proposed facility. It also calls on the central government to hold conclusive talks with the United States on Inamine’s demand that use of the new facility by the U.S. military be limited to 15 years. The U.S. side opposes any time limit. Ruling bloc members said the proposed heliport, which Inamine wants to be used both by the U.S. military and commercial aircraft, will promote economic development on the northern part of the island. Opponents said the city’s solicitation of a military installation runs counter to current trends.
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