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New governor vows all-out efforts to block base move within Okinawa

New Okinawa GovDenny Tamaki said Thursday he will dedicate all his strength to trying to block the Japan-U.S. plan to relocate a key American military facility within the southern island prefecture.
"With my whole mind and body, I will do my best to achieve the return (of the land occupied by) the Futenma base as early as possible and halt the construction of a new base in Henoko," Tamaki said in a press conference to mark the beginning of his four-year term.
The radio personality-turned-politician won Sunday's gubernatorial election with a pledge to stop the controversial plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to the less populated coastal district of Henoko in Nago, both in Okinawa.
The 58-year-old new governor also called on the central government to take a "democratic approach to seek a solution to (the base issue) through dialogue."
Tamaki beat former Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima, who was backed by the ruling bloc led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, in the race held after the death in August of then Gov Takeshi Onaga, a staunch opponent of the base relocation plan.
The former House of Representatives member from the opposition Liberal Party claimed during the election campaign he was designated by Onaga as his successor.
Okinawa, which was under U.S. control between 1945 and 1972 following Japan's defeat in World War II, hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan and many local residents want the Futenma base moved outside the prefecture.
The central and Okinawa governments have long been at odds over the Futenma base transfer project, which Tokyo and Washington agreed on in 1996.
The Henoko base construction has been put on hold since the prefectural government retracted in line with Onaga's instructions in July the 2013 landfill work approval given by his predecessor Hirokazu Nakaima, citing illegality in the application process.
In Tokyo, new Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said Thursday he will push forward with the government's plan to relocate the base.
"There's no change in our efforts to relocate the base at an early date," Iwaya said of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, in an interview with Japanese media outlets.
Iwaya, who was given the defense portfolio in Tuesday's Cabinet reshuffle, stressed that both central government and Okinawa officials think the current danger posed by the base has to be removed.
Iwaya, 61, said he wants to visit Okinawa, where the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan are located, to hold talks with Tamaki.
Iwaya refrained from commenting on when the central government may take legal steps against the prefectural government's retraction in late August of its approval for carrying out necessary landfill work for the relocation.


© KYODO
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