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Military #1 issue as Yonaguni Town prepares for elections

Date Posted: 2009-07-30

Yonaguni Town residents head for the polls Sunday to cast votes in a hotly contested mayoral election in a community torn over whether to invite the military to become part of the town.

The tiny community has seen its population decline 13% in a half-dozen years, leaving it without even a high school. To stem the tide, Mayor Moriyoshi Hokama has asked the Minister of Self Defense Forces to bring Japanese Self Defense Forces to Yonaguni Town. Self Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada is considering the request, which the mayor says will reinvigorate the town. There are 1,567 residents now, down from 1,803 in 2003.

The population decline is impacting the economy, as 49.2% of the 2.17 billion budget is coming from the central government. Yonaguni Town can only provide 13.5% of its financial needs. Our town is exhausted with life, the mayor says, noting its difficult to attract businesses to a community with fewer than 2,000 residents. If we invite the self defense forces to town, Hokama says, the population will increase and infrastructure maintenance can be upgraded.

His challenger for the mayoral post, Chiyoki Tasato, disagrees with the idea. I dont think hes right, Tasato says. How can we protect our nature with self defense forces? They will destroy our nature and might break the relationship between our town and Taiwan, so Im very much against inviting the self defense forces to be part of our town.

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