In an apparent sign of displeasure with Okinawa’s new governor, on Wednesday the central government cut the subsidies the prefecture will receive next fiscal year by 4.6 percent.
The outlay of ¥333.9 billion in 2015 is billed as aiding economic development in the prefecture, which has a heavy U.S. military presence. It is the first such reduction in five years.
Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga was elected last year partly on a ticket opposing a plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to another site within the prefecture.
The previous governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, supported the contentious Marine base relocation, and he approved necessary landfill work at its proposed future site. In fiscal 2014, the government allocated ¥350.1 billion for Okinawa, up ¥50 billion from the year before.
Government officials in Tokyo deny that the reduction is linked to the Futenma relocation issue. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is widely seen as giving Onaga the cold shoulder and has yet to meet with him.
“We decided on the figure after calculating necessary spending,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press briefing after the Cabinet approved the budget.
One of the main cuts is in lump-sum subsidies, which the Okinawa prefectural government can spend as it wishes. The total for this stood at ¥161.7 billion, down ¥14.1 billion from fiscal 2014.
The Abe administration aims to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from Ginowan to a coastal area in Nago, according to a bilateral agreement with the United States.
But local opposition remains strong in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military installations in Japan, and Onaga has argued that since the troops contribute to national security the burden should be spread nationwide.
The initial budgetary request for Okinawa stood at ¥379.4 billion. The government considered cutting the budget to around ¥310 billion at one point, but settled on ¥333.9 billion after hard lobbying by the prefecture.
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