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All eyes look to Nago as election tests principles

Date Posted: 2006-01-12

The three candidates for Nago City mayor disagree on many things, but are in the same camp on one topic.

All agree the concept of a new military airfield on the northern end of Okinawa is a bad idea. Okinawa’s first mayoral election of the year is ten days away, and politicians and activists are watching the action in Nago City because of the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station relocation issue.

Three candidates have announced they’re running for the mayor’s office ahead of the January 15th closing deadline, and all three are very vocal about the military bases issue.

Campaigns are in full swing for Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, 59, whoユs running on the Komeito and Liberal Democractic Party ticket, Keito Oshiro, 65, who is backed by Socialis and Communist parties,and Munehiro Gakiya, 59, of the Conservative and Reformist camp. All three have made declarations that メwe are against the Japanese and American governments agreeing to make the air station on the coast of Camp Schwab.モ

The two governments last October agreed to construct a 2,000 meter replacement airfield for Futenma at the Camp Schwab location. Reaction to the decision has been mixed, but largely critical of the move. Many politicians in Okinawa want the base moved off the island, and not to another location.

Yoshikazu Shimabukuro has a tempered opinion of the plan, as the most moderate of the three. He’s agreed there could be a place for the new airbase, as long as it stays inside the existing Marine Corps Base. Munihiro Gakiya is adamantly opposed. “Don’t bring it to Nago City. Take it somewhere else outside Okinawa.” Oshiro is totally opposed to everything, telling voters the base has got to go. “Never in Okinawa,” he says. “Take this air station outside of Okinawa.”

Shimabukuro isn’t really a military advocate, but sees the new base as essential to good public relations. “He notes that northern Okinawa needs to promote itself more, and needs support from the mainland central government. He sees the need for a lot of monetary support to boost agricultural goods and constructing new factories in the area, and wants to bring back medical specialties such as obstetrics and gynecology to Nago City. Many services in the north have been cut as a result of budget tightening, and he Shimabukuro says Nago City needs a good relationship with Tokyo.

Gakiya acknowledges a need for Nago City growth, but says he’s got plans for getting new financing without Tokyo’s help. He is promising to use his new system to bring new business to the northern city. Oshiro, the communist party candidate, says people power is the key to the future. “We have to push the air station to outside of Okinawa,” he says, and focus on agricultural business and make our self sufficiency alone.” Oshiro is a strong proponent of keeping environments strong and clean.

Asked how he’d lead Nago City if he antagonizes the central Japanese government, alienating them to the point they don’t support him and give money to the city, Oshiro says “we’ll simply work by ourselves. The tourism business is strong, and we’ll make agricultural and fishing business more strong and do everything by ourselves. “ He says Nago City residents can be self sufficient by themselves.

Oshiro has hammered away at his central theme this week that the Americans must go. “I’m strongly against the military bases and military system. I’ll not accept any military facility to Nago City,” he says. “Never!”

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