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Ota announced candidacy; Uehara leaves options open

By: Kari Valtaoja

Date Posted: 1998-06-20

Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota officially announced his expected decision, Monday, to accept his support groups' requests to run for the third term in the Okinawa gubernatorial election, scheduled for November.

"I think it is my responsibility to continue our efforts to realize a peaceful, military base-free Okinawa," he said at a press conference announcing his decision. He specified his basic ideas saying he wants to be independent, secure peace and create a society where everyone can live together.

He also said that besides securing the withdrawal of the bases, he wants to promote economic development on the island through plans like the proposed Okinawa Free Trade Zone. "I am asking the Japanese government to understand these requests not as a politician but as an Okinawan citizen," he said.

Governor Ota is backed in his quest by local labor unions and the Japanese Communist and the Social Democratic Parties.

Conservative groups in Okinawa, growing impatient with Ota's steadfast refusal to even negotiate have requested a SDP House of Representatives Member Kosuke Uehara to run as their candidate against Ota. However, Uehara has so far said that he needs more time to think the proposition from all aspects.

The conservative groups see Uehara as more pragmatic choice as they think that he is willing to negotiate an agreement that will satisfy the central government in solving the Nago off-shore heliport issue, and at the same time ensure economic benefits to the region, especially to the economically depressed northern part of Okinawa which is his constituency.

Representatives of the Social Democratic Party have also refused to comment on Uehara's possible candidacy against Gov. Ota.

Ota's rejection of any relocation of a U.S. Military installation within the prefecture has stalled the 1996 U.S. - Japanese accord of returning the MCAS Futenma within five to seven years.

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