Shinzo Abe suffers Okinawa election defeat over new US base

Denny Tamaki, the son of a US serviceman and a Japanese mother, claims Okinawa victory, opposes a government plan to build a new US military facility

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 October, 2018, 6:50am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 October, 2018, 10:18pm

An opponent of the construction of a new US Marine base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa won election as governor Sunday, beating a candidate backed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition.

Denny Tamaki, the son of a US serviceman and a Japanese mother, claimed victory over Atsushi Sakima in the closely fought race, Kyodo news agency reported, as vote counting continued. Tamaki opposes a government plan to build a new military facility, enabling the closure of the Futenma Marine base in the centre of a densely populated city.

Many in Okinawa, which hosts about half of the 50,000 US military personnel in Japan, want the base moved off the island, or even out of the country. Local residents have complained of crime, noise, pollution, and accidents associated with the US bases, and protests have hampered construction at the new site for 20 years.

Japan, whose own military is restricted by a pacifist constitution, relies heavily on the US for security in a region that includes China and North Korea. Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party sees the delay to the base project as a risk to the alliance.

Whatever the result in Okinawa election, US troops are there to stay

The result deals Abe an early setback less than two weeks after he won a third straight three-year term as LDP leader.

While Abe is a step closer to becoming the country’s longest-ever serving premier, he must juggle trade tensions with US President Donald Trump and an ambitious agenda to push through a number of contentious economic reforms.