Guam – Okinawans have just chosen their new governor, and like his predecessor, the newly elected Denny Tamaki is pushing for the reduction of the US military presence on the Japanese island.
PNC’s Washington correspondent Matt Kaye writes the following story:
“Okinawa’s newly-elected governor led a campaign focused on sharply reducing the US military presence on the island, home to thousands of Marines expected to be redeployed to Guam.
Denny Tamaki’s victory could further roil Okinawa’s legal and political battles with Tokyo over how fast and by how much to reduce the US military presence on the island. Tamaki like his predecessor, who died in office in August, wants a US force reduction in Okinawa, according to a Washington Post report. A longstanding plan to relocate the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a residential area to more remote Henoko in the north, would also move nearly half of the 19-thousand Marines on Okinawa to Guam, Hawaii and Australia. But Tamaki opposes expansion of Camp Schwab in Henoko, and the Post reports, wants a more “radical redistribution” of US forces elsewhere in Japan or abroad.
But Tokyo insists it has the right to decide national security issues and wants to push ahead with the relocation to Henoko, spelling more legal battles and tough negotiations ahead. Tamaki told a local TV audience, people “cannot accept” relocation to Henoko, adding, “I will firmly carry out the will of the people.” And one expert says that could mean Futenma stays where it is for now, furthering the chance another aircraft accident or misbehavior by troops could spark more local opposition to the US force presence.
The US military has tried hard, the Post reports, to boost its image on Okinawa, volunteering free time to teach English or clean up local beaches, while moving artillery and aircraft training off island, as much as possible. But a 2004 helicopter crash and 1995 rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by three servicemen have damaged the military’s image.”