NAGO, OKINAWA PREF. – Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, who opposes a plan to relocate the operations of a key U.S. Marine Corps base to his city in Okinawa, said Wednesday he will seek a third four-year term.
The defining issue of the election, slated for Feb. 4, will likely be the planned transfer of the operations of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a residential area in Ginowan to a new airstrip to be built at the less-populated Henoko coastal district in Nago. Official campaigning will start Jan. 28.
“By every possible means, I am determined to take a firm stand, together with Gov. Takeshi Onaga, to stop construction of the new Henoko base and bring an end to the issue,” the 72-year-old mayor told a news conference in Nago.
Onaga is also a strong opponent of the planned base relocation within the prefecture.
The race is expected to be closely fought between Inamine and Taketoyo Toguchi, a city assembly member, who supports the base transfer plan. Toguchi, 56, is backed by the local chapter of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.
Many people in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, want the Futenma base operations to be relocated outside the prefecture.
The central and prefectural governments have been at odds over the controversial transfer plan, with Okinawa filing the latest in a number of lawsuits last month to seek a halt in the construction project underway.
In 1996, Tokyo and Washington agreed on the return of the land used for the Futenma base and announced in 2006 a road map for realigning the U.S. military presence in Japan, including the relocation of the airfield to Henoko.
The central government has maintained that the current plan is the “only solution” that would both eliminate the dangers posed by the Futenma base and maintain the deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Inamine won the mayoral election in 2010 on an anti-base platform, defeating the incumbent, who supported the relocation.