Anti-base governor re-elected in Okinawa

he governor of Okinawa who has opposed a plan to relocate a U.S. airbase on the southern Japanese island won re-election on Sunday, beating a more hard-line opponent of the base in a closely fought race.

Tokyo and Washington agreed in May to implement a 2006 plan to shift the U.S. Marines’ Futenma airbase in Okinawa to a less crowded area on the island, which is host to about half the U.S. troops in Japan.

But the outlook for the plan is unclear after Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s predecessor first raised and then dashed hopes for moving the base off Okinawa entirely, angering local residents who associate U.S. bases with noise, pollution and crime.

Hirokazu Nakaima’s win over a rival who more firmly rejected the May plan could leave the door open for talks with the central government, but Kan still faces an uphill battle in satisfying Washington, which wants to keep the base on the island.

Nakaima previously supported the 2006 plan but changed his stance after strong resistance by local residents. The governor would need to sign off on the construction of the new site.

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