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Govt mulling restart of subsidies for U.S. forces realignment in Okinawa

Jiji PressTOKYO (Jiji Press) — The government is considering the restart of the allocation of subsidies related to the realignment of the U.S. forces in the nation, following the victory of a ruling camp-backed candidate in Sunday’s mayoral election in the city of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, informed sources said Monday.

To accelerate the construction in the Henoko coastal area in Nago of a replacement facility for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station, now in Ginowan, another city in the prefecture, the government intends to financially support the host community of the planned new base.

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who opposes the Futenma relocation within the prefecture, may need to revamp his strategy toward the Okinawa gubernatorial election this autumn following the Nago election.

In Sunday’s election, former Nago municipal assembly member Taketoyo Toguchi, 56, backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its Komeito ally, beat incumbent Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, 72, an opponent of the relocation plan, who was supported by Onaga and opposition parties including the Japanese Communist Party and the Democratic Party.

The central government believes that the Futenma relocation to Henoko is the only solution for removing the danger of the base.

“By obtaining the understanding of citizens, we’d like to proceed with the relocation plan in line with the Supreme Court ruling,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Monday. In the December 2016 ruling, Onaga’s cancellation of the approval for the landfill work in Henoko given by his predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, was found illegal.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference the same day that the central government wants to support Nago “as much as possible.”

Since Inamine became Nago mayor in 2010, the central government has provided the city with nothing under its subsidy program for supporting municipalities whose base-hosting burdens increase in line with the realignment of the U.S. forces in Japan.

“We’ll discuss the subsidy issue after the new Nago mayor assumes the post,” a senior official of the Defense Ministry said.

Toguchi told reporters, “I hope to visit Tokyo to request budgets for various projects,” suggesting that he intends to work with the central government to revitalize the local economy.

The mayor-elect stopped short of commenting directly on the subsidy issue.

Meanwhile, Onaga told reporters that the will of voters who supported his victory in the 2014 Okinawa gubernatorial election is still alive, stressing that there is no change in his resolve to block the Futenma relocation to Henoko.

Onaga said that he will consider voiding the Henoko landfill permission while taking legal matters into account.

The Okinawa governor also said that he will consider whether to run in the upcoming gubernatorial election after discussions with related people.Speech

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