Hiromu Nonaka, former secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, resigned Wednesday as chairman of the party’s Okinawa Promotion Committee in protest over remarks made by a senior party executive on the relocation of a major U.S. base.

Nonaka tendered his resignation to LDP Secretary General Taku Yamasaki in the morning. Yamasaki said later he would try to persuade Nonaka to change his mind.

The move was sparked by remarks by Taro Aso, chief of the LDP Policy Research Council, who voiced opposition toward spending huge sums on a planned military-civilian airport that will serve as a replacement base for the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, central Okinawa.

During a meeting Sunday at the party’s local chapter in Naha, Aso said, “The idea of spending 600 billion yen for something that will be demolished 15 years later will not win public understanding.”

Nonaka told reporters, “After going through various developments, we were finally able to decide on a candidate site for the facility thanks to the cooperation of successive Cabinets, ruling parties and local people concerned.

“I cannot tolerate remarks by a party executive in charge of policy affairs that could throw a wet blanket on the issue.”

Nonaka added that he will not reverse his decision even if Aso retracts the remarks.

Asked about the move, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the matter is in the hands of Yamasaki.

“Although I have not yet (directly) heard why (the resignation) was submitted, there is no change to the government’s position on the matter,” he said.

The national government and the Okinawa Prefectural Government agreed in July on the basic relocation plan. It features a proposal to build the airport with a 2,500-meter-long runway on a man-made island 2.2 km off the coast of Nago.

The prefectural government wants to put a 15-year time limit on the U.S. forces’ use of the facility, although the United States has not agreed to this proposal.

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