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Kishimoto wins Nago Mayor race

Date Posted: 1998-02-14

The unexpected win by pro-floating heliport candidate in the Nago mayoral election, Sunday, has thrown the whole politics surrounding the dispute into utter confusion and disarray, prompting politicians and officials, both in Okinawa and Tokyo repeatedly flip-flop in their statements.

First, obviously anticipating a landslide win by Yoshikazu Tamaki, the candidate of parties opposing the heliport plan, Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota declared his opposition of the plan. The declaration prompted acrimonious comments from members of the ruling LDP and calls for scrapping or at least freezing the agreed upon Okinawa economic development plan. Many Tokyo newspaper editorials were furious, with Yomiuri Shimbun, for example, calling Ota's stance the summit of irresposibility.

Ota's declaration also rocked Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto's government at its very roots as serious questions were raised about his government's ability to live up to the bi-lateral U.S.-Japan Security Agreement in general and to the 1996 SACO agreement, in which the governments agreed to relocate MCAS Futenma as a part of consolidation and reduction of U.S. bases in Okinawa, in particular.

With Kishimoto's win the tables were quickly turned. Although Kishimoto says that he personally is against the heliport, he urged the prefectural and central governments to get back to the negotiating table as soon as possible.

In Tokyo, the Prime Minister was joyous, and the LDB quickly passed the legistlation, Tuesday, to realize the Okinawa Special Economic Development Plan.

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