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Okinawa, Japan Sweepingly Rejects US Base Move

Monday 25 February 2019
Okinawa, Japan Sweepingly Rejects US Base Move

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Alwaght-Voters on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa have rejected the relocation of a controversial US military base elsewhere on the island, but Japan's government said it would ignore the vote and press ahead with the plan.

Local authorities said the vote on Sunday saw some 72 percent of voters opposing moving the US Marines Futenma airbase, with 19 percent in favour. Turnout was 63 percent.

Opponents of the relocation - some 434,000 people - turned out in sufficient numbers to meet the threshold required for Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki to "respect" the result of the symbolic referendum.

For this to happen, one-quarter of the eligible electorate - or around 290,000 people - had to vote for one of the three options: for, against or a third choice of "neither".

Tamaki, who opposes the base, hailed the results as "extremely significant".

"I will strongly demand that the government squarely face the resolute will of our people, review its present policy immediately and halt the construction," the governor told reporters.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Monday the government was taking the results seriously and would work to obtain the understanding of Okinawa residents - but that plans to move the base could not be deferred.

"We cannot avoid the necessity of moving Futenma, said to be the most dangerous base in the world," Abe said, noting that two decades had passed since the US and Japan had agreed to the relocation.

Okinawa accommodates about half of the 54,000 American troops stationed in Japan, to the detriment of the locals, who continue to rally against noise pollution and the behavior of US troops, who, in the past, had repeatedly been involved in sexual assaults and even deadly incidents.

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