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Okinawa governor vows to continue fight against US base construction

20 May 2015 11:47

f4a7ca4d-0835-4e92-9f9b-a1310bb15932The governor of Okinawa in Japan has pledged to continue his fight against the construction of a new US airbase on the southern Japanese island, saying he is ready to take his case to Washington.

Takeshi Onaga said Wednesday in the capital, Tokyo, that he was “confident” he could stop the base construction in the Henoko district of the southern city of Nago.

Onaga and local residents are against the US and Japanese governments’ plans to relocate the existing US Futenma airbase in Ginowna City to Henoko due to concerns over high levels of aircraft noise, accidents in civilian areas and rampant crimes – such as rape – by the US soldiers stationed at the base.

Many Henoko citizens are opposed to the construction of the military base, saying it would also endanger the coral reef, tropical fish and other marine life around the island.

The file photo of Henoko in the city of Nago on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has persistently expressed his support for the project as his government considers it a key component to Japan’s military alliance with the US.

Onaga said Abe’s administration takes Okinawans’ “sacrifices” for granted, adding that, “The government took our land and tells us to shoulder the burden of US bases.”

“We want them to halt the construction and hold discussions,” he said.

The Okinawa governor argued that the US bases are “obstacles” for the island’s economic development.

Onaga is due to travel to the US next week, where he plans to spend time in Washington and meet defense officials.

Some 35,000 Japanese protesters raise their hands during a rally in Naha to protest against a controversial US airbase in Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, May 17, 2015. (© AFP)

The remarks come just days after some 35,000 people took to the streets in Okinawa’s capital, Naha, to protest the presence of US Futenma airbase. The protesters strongly criticized the Tokyo government, which is apparently ignoring local residents.

The US has had a major military presence in Okinawa since the end of World War II. About half of the 50,000 American military personnel in Japan are stationed on the island.

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