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Okinawa vote on US military bases testing security ties with Japan



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By Daniel Hurst

TOKYO ̵

1; The voices are expected to trigger their anger this weekend at the strong concentration of US military bases in Okinawa.

The strategically important chain of the islands southwest of the rest of Japan was the battlefield for some of the hardest battles during World War II. It also served as a setting for the US forces during the Vietnam War.

However, Okinawa hosts two-thirds of the dedicated US only bases in Japan despite the fact that they account for less than 1 percent of the country's land area. [19659007] Over the past two decades, the frustration with the US presence in Okinawa has been building over aircraft accidents, security issues, noise pollution, and several high-profile criminal cases with US military personnel and civilian personnel. The two countries agreed to reduce the impact of the US bases following local rebellion over the rape of a 12-year-old girl of three US soldiers in 1995.

United States. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is located in a crowded residential area of ​​Ginowan, Japan. Kyodo / AP

Hiroji Yamashiro, who heads the Okinawa Peace Movement Center and has protested against the US bases, said Sunday's vote is a "chance to show residents' overwhelming and irresistible resistance" to the heavy US presence there.

The Regional Assembly's referendum is about a disputed plan to move a US Marine Corps base 25 miles northeast of a coastal area in Henoko, adjacent to Camp Schwab, another US plant.

Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is currently located in a crowded residential area of ​​Ginowan, a city of nearly 100,000 people on Okinawa's largest island.

There was a big scare in December 2017, when a window from a US CH-53E transport helicopter fell due to a primary school close to where dozens of students played.

The school later revealed that the ad ordered students to take shelter 693 times a year after this incident due to fear of approaching military aircraft.

The residents of Okinawa, located near Taiwan and facing the East China Sea, say their concerns have also been ignored for a long time and see the threatening voice as a chance to make their views crystal clear. Nearly 1.2 million voters are eligible to participate in the referendum, which specifically asks for the relocation work.

While the result of the vote is not legally binding, strong opposition to the plan will be considered a challenge for long-term US and Japanese government policies and a broader dissatisfaction proxy for the bases.

"Okinawan residents have long struggled for the removal, reorganization and disarmament of military bases," said Hiroyuki Teruya, a professor of political science at Okinawa International University. "However, the Japanese government has prioritized stability in the security agreement and ignored this problem."

Protesters enter a rally outside Camp Schwab, which is another US base in Okinawa on December 12. Richard Atrero de Guzman / Sipa USA via AP file

In a poll made by Japan's Kyodo News on 16-17. February, more than two-thirds of respondents said they would vote against the baseline. Only one in six is ​​planning to vote for, according to pollen by 1,047 eligible voters.

President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have described the alliance between their countries as "the cornerstone of peace, prosperity and freedom in the Asia-Pacific region."

At their first meeting of the White House after Trump's election, the couple agreed. the need for "long-term, sustainable presence of US forces" in Japan.

Trump and Abe have said both governments are required to move the plan.

But the new location at Henoko requires landfill work in Oura Bay, causing opponents to raise environmental issues.

"The Abe administration has begun the recovery at Henoko shown their refusal to listen to the Okinawans public," said Masaaki Gabe, a professor of international politics and relations between the United States and Japan at Okinawa's Ryukyus University.

Gabe quoted last year's elections won with a gubernational nominee who promised to fight the basic transfer over an Abe government-backed rival suggesting that a majority of the population of the region "opposed the new basic construction through land reclamation of natural and beautiful sea."

Land reclamation work is already underway at the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma relocation site in Okinawa's coastal area. Kyodo / AP

Many anti-base campaigns also require a faster reduction of the overall US military footprint in Okinawa and watch the blockage move as part of that effort.

US Forces Japan is made up of about 54,000 military personnel, half of whom are stationed in Okinawa.

Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese government's cabinet secretary, said the existing location of the Futenma aircraft station is dangerous as it is close to homes and schools.

"We must remove this danger and return this space to the Okinawa Prefecture," he told a press conference in Tokyo on February 14.

Suga said the state would continue to seek the understanding of residents to have to continue moving.

But on the question of whether the government would stick to its plan, regardless of the referendum, Suga confirmed: "Yes, this is the basic attitude."

Leading fight against the base move is Denny Tamaki, Governor of Okinawa, who won a major victory at the ballot paper in September.

Tamaki, son of a former US Marine and an Okinawan mother, has said he supports the United States allia but thinks it is abnormal that his region has so many bases when it accounts for only 0.6 percent of Japanese territory.

The governor, who traveled to New York and Washington, DC, to push his case last year, claims the impact of military accidents and other incidents spread beyond the direct victims.

"This anger and sorrow is something that all Okinawans are holding themselves in, and many people in Okinawa are also struggling not to know where to lead this anger and sadness," said Tamaki during a press conference in Tokyo. November 9th.

President Donald Trump welcomes Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida last year. Mandel Ngan / AFP – Getty Images file

A referendum in Okinawa Prefecture in 1996 showed that 89 percent of participants supported a fall in US military facilities. After voting that had a 59 percent turnout, the United States committed itself to reducing the impact of its presence.

One of the largest transfers of land took place in late 2016, when the United States returned to the Japanese government nearly 10,000 hectares of land from the northern training area.

"After several recent land returns, less than 64 percent of the US exclusive use sites are on Okinawa, while about 36 percent are on the mainland," US forces said in a statement. [19659007] Yamashiro from Okinawa's Peace Movement Center said the efforts had become stronger, and he hoped Tokyo and Washington officials were listening to people's will.

"As soon as the referendum shows, both governments must go back to the drawing board on the new base building at Henoko and question how US military bases would be in Okinawa," he said.


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