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Candidate Denny Tamaki delivers a speech during a campaign for Okinawa governor in Naha, Okinawa-Prefecture, Japan on Saturday. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/6a46a7c47409b0d3628fbd456f2370e6/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>

Candidate Denny Tamaki delivers a speech during a campaign for Okinawa governor in Naha, Okinawa-Prefecture, Japan on Saturday. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 10 (UPI) — As the candidates for Okinawa governor get set to face off on Sunday, the planned relocation of a key U.S. military base has faded as an issue.

The U.S. Marine Corps‘s Futenma air base had been a key issue when work on it began nearly four years ago to relocate the base from Ginowan to rural Henoko coastal area of Nago, with candidates taking different stances on the issue.

Incumbent Gov. Denny Tamaki, 62, strongly opposes the relocation. Challenger Atshushi Sakima, 58, supports the relocation. A third candidate in the race, Mikio Shimoji, 61, opposes further land reclamation work at Henoko and is pushing for relocation to another island.

Okinawa still hosts the bulk of U.S. bases in the country over 50 years after it was returned to Japan from the postwar U.S. administration in 1972.

The relocation plan was first agreed upon between Japan and the United States in 1996, according to the Japan Times. The central government has maintained that relocating the base is the only way to ensure deterrence under the alliance between the two countries.

“We will continue to make full efforts to alleviate Okinawa’s burden of hosting bases while striving to gain local understanding,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said in a regular news conference.

However, when Tamaki kicked off his campaign on Aug. 25, he declared he was absolutely opposed to the base’s relocation. He has not said much else about the plans, choosing instead to focus on policies supporting women and children.

“We have no choice but to rely on Tamaki’s popularity,” a source in his camp told the Japan Times.

Sakima, who lost to Tamaki four years ago, has used his support for the bases’ relocation as a tactic to separate himself from Tamaki.



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