Susumu Inamine, the new Nago mayor
Ending the long-standing dispute which has long divided the city, Susumu Inamine rallied the majority in Sunday's mayoral race in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture (沖縄).
He pledged his campaign on the refusal for his city to welcome a supplementary U.S. Marine Corps base that Japan and the United States formally agreed to relocate in 2006, agreement that was reviewed by the new Hatoyama administration in September 2009, dividing Japan and American governments.
VDO describing how private Japanese television introduced the debate on voting day
''I was campaigning in the election with a pledge not to have a new base built in Henoko waters and will hold on to the pledge with conviction,'' Inamine told his supporters who gathered in front of his office after securing victory. He said the city has long failed to demonstrate one unified local mandate, citing that a majority of residents voted against the relocation plan in the 1997 local referendum, while candidates who were willing to accept the plan had won the past three mayoral polls. ''It (my victory as the anti-U.S. base candidate) shows this is one single will of local people,'' Inamine started his mandate with a roar of applause from his campaign supporters. The vote turnout was big, 76.96 percent, up 1.98 percentage points from the previous election, quoting the city's election board.
His rival, the incumbent Nago Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, 63, expressed willingness to accept the existing plan if the government led by Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan decides to follow the bilateral accord. Inamine was running as an independent but had support from the DPJ and its coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party, and the Japanese Communist Party. Inamine also drew support from civic groups opposed to the construction of a new U.S. base, while his opponent, ex Mayor Shimabukuro, was largely backed by construction firms that have benefited from and expect to continue benefiting from state subsidies and related public works projects.
Under the 2006 deal reached with Japan's previous government, which was led by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, Nago, which has a population of about 60,000, would build a new heliport base along the coast of the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Schwab located near the splendid Henoko bay.
"Hatoyama reiterated last week that his government would conclude negotiations with the United States by the end of May on where to relocate the Futemma facility. Since taking office last September, the 62-year-old Japanese leader has been evasive on the issue and that has been widely seen as straining Japan-U.S. relations."
What will happen to Futenma relocation? This is now up to Tokyo government to decide, and the calendar is rather ironical as the US Japan security alliance turned fifty last week!
(sources: Japanese dailies, Mainichi, Nikkei, Asahi, Yomiuri, wire services, Ann, Nnn, reporter's notes)