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Popular former Prime Minister dies at age 68

Date Posted: 2006-07-08

The former Japanese Prime Minister who negotiated a deal to move Futenma Marine Corps Air Station out of Ginowan City has died.

Ryuutaro Hashimoto died July 1st in Tokyo. He was 68.

Hashimoto, often called “Young Nobleman”, was special in the hearts and minds of Okinawans. After becoming Prime Minister in 1996, he fell in love with Okinawa and worked with the Prefecture and made a deal with the U.S. military for return of Futenma, but with the provision that the air station be moved elsewhere. That agreement specified Henoko, which has become a flash point for anti-U.S. base protests.

“I feel very sad,” said Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine. “I’ve lost my strong support. He was the only prime minister who thought deeply about Okinawa and he took our problems as more important than any other Prime Minister has done.”

The popular Japanese leader said “I believe the Okinawan people loved to hear this. I did a great job for Okinawa and I’ll always do my best for Okinawa.” Inamine says “we will never forget Hashimoto’s great job for Okinawa.”

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