Following decades of protest against the controversial U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan, plans to move that base to a different location on the island faced new challenges Sunday after the re-election of a mayor who has promised to block the move.
Susumu Inamine, the mayor of Nago—where Japan plans on moving the base—ran on an anti-base campaign, defeating pro-base challenger Bunshin Suematsu, who was backed by prime minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic party (LDP).
Inamine could stand in the way of a deal between Okinawa’s governor Hirokazu Nakaima, a long-time critic of the U.S. base for its placement in the densely populated city of Ginowan, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who proposed roughly $2.9 billion in aid in exchange for the replacement base in Nago.
“The plan must go back to square one,” Inamine told reporters on Sunday. “I will reject all procedures that are premised on the landfill project,” he said in reference to the planned site of construction.
Inamine’s victory will give “momentum” to the anti-base movement “and the opposition campaign could spread,” Takashi Kawakami, a professor at Takushoku University, told Reuters after Inamine’s victory.
Abe, who is up for reelection on February 9, “will probably try to forge ahead but there will probably be an opposition movement,” said Kawakami, adding that if this unrest is reported in the media daily, “Abe’s support rates could fall.”
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