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Nakaima, Iha make promises in gubernatorial debate

Date Posted: 2010-11-04

Okinawa’s governor and his chief challenger in the upcoming November 28th gubernatorial election have gone nose-to-nose in a debate at Okinawa Christian University, continuing their disagreements on exactly what they’d do — and how they’d do it — with regard to the controversial relocation of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station.

Agreements dating to May 2006 have committed moving the air station from Ginowan City in central Okinawa, to the sparsely populated Henoko District of Nago City, but local elections and the outcries from Okinawan citizens have the move in question. Former Ginowan City mayor Yoichi Iha, who’s challenging Hirokazu Nakaima for the post as Okinawa’s governor, accuses Nakaima of “not having a discussion with America even,” while telling 150 citizens listening to the debate “I went to America and discussed with the American people about withdrawing the Marine Corps from Okinawa.”

Iha promised would-be voters “If I become Okinawa Prefecture governor, the Japanese government will have to give up transferring the Futenma air station to Henoko.” The incumbent governor Nakaima, countering the argument during the debate, told citizens “Once I accepted the transfer of Futenma to outside Henoko, but since the Nago City mayoral election and the assembly election were won by the opposition, and since Nago City is now saying they’re against the transfer, I have to say that the transfer to Henoko will be a very hard problem to solve.”

Nakaima says “My opinion is that Futenma should be accepted with all the other 46 Japanese prefectures, and not only Okinawa.” The governor says “I have pride in Okinawa, and I have a 21st century vision for young people, giving them a good environment. That’s my responsibility.” While unveiling campaign pledges that included talk he’d seek a way to relocate Futenma outside Okinawa Prefecture, he didn’t make clear that he would firmly oppose relocating the airbase to another part of the prefecture. Nakaima has stated several times he wants to leave room for continuing negotiations with Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s administration in Tokyo.

“People in Okinawa feel disappointment and anger over the government’s betrayal,” he says, “and I want people across the country to look for an alternate relocation site.” Nakaima says Okinawans are now clear their preference is to move Futenma out of Okinawa Prefecture.

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