Over 70 percent of Okinawans reject U.S. military base relocation plan in referendum

Chen Zhuo

The majority of voters in Japan's Okinawa in a referendum on Sunday rejected the central government's plans to relocate a controversial U.S. airbase within Japan's southernmost prefecture, local media reported Monday after final tallies were counted.

More than 70 percent of the voters rejected the government's plans to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from the Ginowan region to the coastal Henoko area also located on the island, giving the Okinawa government a stronger foothold in its campaign to block the controversial move.

In the referendum where voters where given the choice to vote "yes," "no," or "neither," as to whether they wanted to see the U.S. base relocated on their island, the number of "no" votes came in at 72.2 percent of the total.

Those supporting the move stood at some 19.1 percent, and those who voted "neither" stood at 8.8 percent in the referendum as to whether they agreed with the central government's land reclamation work in the coastal region, according to the prefectural authorities' figures.

Exit polls also showed that not only do Okinawans not want to see any more bases on the island, they also want the central government to respect the outcome of the prefecture-wide referendum.

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki who denounces the central government's plans to relocate the base, said he hoped the referendum, although not legally binding, provided local citizens with the opportunity to voice their opposition to the move.

Many Okinawans wish to see the base moved outside of Okinawa and Japan altogether, as anti-U.S. sentiment continues to rise on the island.



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