AP Explains: The new Okinawa governor and US military bases

TOKYO (AP) — The election of a new Japanese governor who is an outspoken opponent of a plan to relocate a U.S. air base on Okinawa could further delay the move and prompt renewed calls to reduce the heavy American military presence and the privileges troops have on the island. A look at the long-running conflict between Okinawa, Washington and Tokyo:



Denny Tamaki, elected governor of Okinawa on Sunday, opposes a plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from densely populated Ginowan city to less-crowded Henoko on the east coast. He told voters that he would instead ask the U.S. and Japanese governments to close Futenma, return the land to Okinawa and move the air station off the island. He also said he would not approve land reclamation to build a runway in Henoko. He wants to reduce the U.S. military presence on Okinawa and revise the Status of Forces Agreement, which gives U.S. military personnel certain legal privileges. Achieving those goals will be difficult as the central government takes precedence over the local government on U.S.-Japan alliance issues. The 58-year-old Tamaki, whose legal first name is Yasuhiro, is the son of a Japanese mother and a U.S. Marine. He stepped down from parliament to run for governor and carry on the anti-base policies of former Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who died in August of pancreatic cancer.



U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reaffirmed their commitment to pursue the Henoko plan in 2017, calling it “the only solution that avoids continued use” of Futenma. The plan was developed after the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl, in which three U.S. servicemen were convicted. The case reignited simmering Okinawan opposition to the U.S. bases. The U.S. and Japan agreed to the return of the 1,100-acre (445-hectare) Futenma base after it is moved to a new site in Henoko. The plan requires 1,800-meter (5,900-foot) runways in a V-configuration on reclaimed land in Henoko Bay near the U.S. military’s Camp Schwab.



About half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan are stationed in Okinawa. The 30 U.S. installations on the small island account for 74 percent of the area used by the U.S. military in Japan, leading Okinawa to protest that it is shouldering more than its share of the burden. Okinawans have complained about the noise, pollution, accidents and crime involving American troops. High-profile sexual assault, drunken driving and other crimes by American personnel in recent years have prompted the U.S. to become more sensitive to the issue and step up disciplinary measures. Onaga, the previous governor, also said the dispute over the relocation symbolized centuries-old tension between Okinawa and the Japanese mainland. Japan annexed the islands, formerly the independent Ryukyu kingdom, in 1879.

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