NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – New Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said Thursday he will dedicate all his strength toward blocking the Japan-U.S. plan to relocate a key American military facility within the prefecture.
“With my whole mind and body, I will do my best to achieve the return (of the land occupied by) the Futenma base as early as possible and halt the construction of a new base in Henoko,” Tamaki said at a news conference to mark the beginning of his four-year term.
The former radio personality won Sunday’s gubernatorial election with a pledge to stop the controversial plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to the less populated coastal district of Henoko in Nago, both in Okinawa.
The 58-year-old governor also called on the central government to take a “democratic approach to seek a solution” to the base issue through dialogue.
Tamaki beat former Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima, who was backed by the ruling bloc led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.
The race was held in the wake of the August death of Gov. Takeshi Onaga, a staunch opponent of the base relocation plan.
Tamaki, a former House of Representatives member from the opposition Liberal Party, claimed during the election campaign that he was designated by Onaga to be his successor.
Okinawa, which was under U.S. control between 1945 and 1972 following Japan’s defeat in World War II, hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in the country and many local residents want the Futenma base moved outside the prefecture.
The central and Okinawa governments have long been at odds over the Futenma base transfer project, which Tokyo and Washington agreed to in 1996.
In line with Onaga’s instructions in July, the Henoko base construction has been put on hold since the prefectural government retracted the 2013 landfill work approval given by his predecessor Hirokazu Nakaima, citing illegality in the application process.