Japan to proceed with relocation of US base

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Feb. 24 the relocation of the US airbase at Futenma to Henoko, elsewhere on the island of Okinawa, would continue despite a referendum vote opposing the move. Okinawa prefecture held a referendum on whether the US military base should relocate from Ginowan municipality to Henoko. After the final count, approximately 70% of voters opposed the move. The relocation has been 20 years in preparation, and has continued to face opposition over claims of noise from military activity, harm to the surrounding coral reefs, and outrag over a 1995 incident of rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by US servicemen.

The referendum result is non-binding, but does show the Japanese government the Okinawa citizens' sentiment surrounding the US presence on the island. Despite the Prime Minister's insistence that the relocation to move forward, Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki plans to make a visit to Tokyo to reaffirm the island's position.

From Jurist, Feb. 25. Used with permission.