Tokyo, Japan: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday he will go forward with plans to build a new U.S. military base on Okinawa, despite more than 70 percent of voters rejecting the idea.
A referendum Sunday asked voters how they felt about the plan to replace the Marines Corps Air Station at Futema, which is located in a residential area of Ginowan. Nearly three quarters opposed.
While acknowledging the voters’ opposition, Abe said Monday construction will go on.
“We have been holding dialogue with people in Okinawa for a long time and intend to keep doing so to seek their understanding,” he said.
More than 50 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot Sunday, with a total of 434,000 voting to reject building a new U.S. military base there.
Some experts said the move could hurt Abe in elections this year.
“The referendum could be a turning point for voters across the country to again realize Abe’s politics, hurting the reputation of his administration,” Etsushi Tanifuji, a political science professor at Waseda University, said.
Some in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party worry the prime minister’s U.S. support will cost the party seats in November among centrist voters. It also comes at a time in which U.S. President Donald Trump has been pushing Abe to boost American imports to reduce the trade deficit between the two countries.
Denny Tamaki, the son of a U.S. Marine, became Okinawa’s governor after winning an election there last fall on the platform of moving U.S. personnel off of the island altogether. His predecessor Takeshi Onaga, also opposed U.S. presence on the island.