Okinawan Gov Hirokazu Nakaima is facing a revolt after the prefectural assembly on Friday adopted a resolution calling for his resignation. The resolution says that Nakaima broke an election promise by giving his OK for the start of landfill work at Henoko, Nago, for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps air base at Futenma.
The resolution was passed 24-21. The assembly also demanded that the prefectural government oppose the the relocation of the base within Okinawa.
Nakaima has been under fire since he approved the plan last month. Threatening lawsuits and protests, opponents are gearing up to fight the decision.
The new base is designed to reduce the impact of the heavy U.S. military presence in Okinawa by replacing another base in a more congested area, but opponents want the operations moved off Okinawa completely.
“What the governor has done is unforgivable,” Yuichi Higa, the head of the assembly in Nago, said. “Residents who are opposed will surely resort to the use of force, such as blocking roads, to stop this from happening.”
Hiroshi Ashitomi, head of a Nago group opposing the base, has said his organization would file a lawsuit challenging the governor’s decision.
The new base is part of a U.S.-Japan agreement that would also move 9,000 Marines off Okinawa, including transferring 5,000 to Guam.
The debate over the future of Futenma dates to 1996, when the U.S and Japan signed an agreement to close the base and move its operations elsewhere in Okinawa. In 2006, the two countries agreed to relocate the base to a relatively unpopulated area called Henoko in Nago city. But after the Democratic Party of Japan took power in 2009, it raised the possibility that the base could be moved off of Okinawa. While it later agreed to the Henoko plan, the proposal energized a movement to move the base elsewhere.
A key factor could be the outcome of a mayoral election in Nago on Jan 19 that pits an opponent of the Henoko plan against a supporter. Two independents are running for mayor—Bunshin Suematsu, 65, who favors relocation of the base to Nago, and Susumu Inamine, 68, who opposes the move.