Japan's Abe reiterates pledge to transfer U.S. base after mayoral election in Okinawa

Li Jiayao

TOKYO, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday reiterated the Japanese government's commitment to relocate a controversial U.S. air base within Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture, amid rising antipathy on the island due to a recent spate of U.S. military-linked mishaps.

"By gaining the understanding of local citizens, we will go ahead with the base transfer plan in accordance with the Supreme Court's ruling," the prime minister said, with reference to a series of legal suits and counter suits brought by Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga and the central government.

Onaga is staunch proponent of lessening the U.S. base-hosting burdens of the people of Okinawa and relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan to the coastal Henoko region also on the island.

Abe's remarks came on the heels of Taketoyo Toguchi, 56, winning Sunday's mayoral election in Nago, defeating incumbent Susumu Inamine, 72, who was seeking a third term.

Inamine, supported by Onaga, and also opposed to the base's relocation, intimated that his rival had deliberately avoided the key issue of the base's relocation and focused on economic promises to develop the region as being a priority in the mayoral race.

While Okinawans are constantly incensed by U.S. military-linked crimes and accidents, gaining more economic support from the central government has always come into play in local elections in the southern Japan prefecture.

The Supreme Court in December 2016 ruled illegal Onaga's revocation of a permit given by his predecessor to allow work related to the base's relocation to go ahead.

Okinawa hosts 74 percent of all U.S. bases in Japan and local fears about the rising U.S. military-linked accidents and crimes as well as issues pertaining to the Futenma base's move have seen anti-U.S. sentiment stoked on the tiny subtropical island.

In July 2017, Onaga filed a fresh lawsuit aimed once again at blocking the Futenma relocation plan.

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