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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga — who met last week for the first time since the governor was elected in November — remain divided over the construction of a new U.S. military facility in the prefecture to replace the U.S. Marine’s Air Station Futenma. While Abe may have only wanted to meet the governor to avoid the impression of a standoff with Okinawa over the base issue ahead of his visit to the United States, the very fact that they met signifies progress. The Abe administration needs to realize that Futenma’s relocation will be difficult to achieve in an all-out confrontation with Okinawa, and maintain dialogue with local authorities to find a solution.

Abe gave Onaga the cold shoulder for months after he won the gubernatorial election on the promise to halt the government’s plan to build the Futenma replacement facility in the northern Okinawa city of Nago, defeating the incumbent who gave the go-ahead in 2013 for the reclamation work off the coast of the Henoko district. Key members of his administration refused to meet Onaga on several occasions when he visited Tokyo, until Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga held talks with the governor during his visit to Okinawa this month.

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