ISHIGAKI, OKINAWA PREF. – Yoshitaka Nakayama won his third term as mayor of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, on Sunday, giving a boost to Tokyo’s plan to deploy a Ground Self-Defense Force missile battery there.
Backed by the national Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito ruling coalition as well as opposition party Nippon Ishin no Kai, Nakayama, 50, defeated two first-time candidates — Misao Miyara, 61, a former municipal assemblyman, and former Okinawa Prefectural Assemblyman Toshikatsu Sunagawa, 54.
The term lasts for four years.
Miyara, who opposed the GSDF plan, was supported by anti-base Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga and four national opposition parties.
The election represents another setback for Onaga after former Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, whom he supported in the Nago race in February, lost re-election.
The central government is building a new base in Nago to replace U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in congested Ginowan despite heavy local opposition.
Onaga and Inamine opposed the long-delayed relocation plan signed by Japan and the United States, and demanded that the Futenma base be moved out of Okinawa.
The ruling coalition hopes the consecutive mayoral victories will add momentum to its campaign for the gubernatorial race in autumn, when Onaga is expected to seek a second term.
In the Ishigaki election, the main issue was the central government’s plan to deploy GSDF personnel, including a surface-to-air missile unit, in a central part of the island to strengthen the defense of Japan’s southwestern island chain, including Okinawa.
Miyara opposed the deployment. Nakayama effectively supported the deployment plan and urged the central government to persuade the residents of Ishigaki. Sunagawa meanwhile favored the idea but called for the plan to be revised.