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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 November 2006, 23:59 GMT
Okinawans reject anti-US option
Hirokazu Nakaima, after casting his vote in Okinawa
Mr Nakaima says he will negotiate over plans to relocate US forces
The southern Japanese island chain of Okinawa has elected a new governor, in a ballot widely seen as a referendum on the presence of US forces there.

Hirokazu Nakaima, a candidate supported by Japan's ruling coalition, narrowly beat Keiko Itokazu, who had campaigned for a reduction in US troop numbers.

Mr Naikama won the ballot on a platform of improving the island's economy.

He has pledged to negotiate over the US presence in Okinawa. Locals living near US bases complain of noise and crime.

The US military has kept forces on the islands since World War II.

New runways

Earlier this year, the Japanese government endorsed proposals for the most significant reorganisation of US troops in Japan in decades.

Map of US air bases in Japan

Under the terms of the deal, several thousand US marines will be moved off the southern island of Okinawa to the US territory of Guam by 2014.

The US will also move its operations from the existing Futenma base - which is in a built-up area - to two new runways near Camp Schwab, in northern Okinawa.

In campaigning, Ms Itokazu, who had hoped to become Okinawa's first female governor, called for the base to be moved out of Japan altogether.

Mr Nakaima, 67, said he was opposed to the relocation plan, but did not rule it out as an option. He said he would negotiate with central government on the issue and avoid confrontation.

Election officials said he had won with 347,303 votes, just over 37,000 more than his rival.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose ruling coalition backed Mr Nakaima, welcomed his victory and promised to listen to the concerns of the people of Okinawa about the US presence.


SEE ALSO
Japan approves US troop shake-up
30 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
US and Japan make troop cost deal
24 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
US to cut Okinawa troop numbers
29 Oct 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Okinawa base battle resolved
26 Oct 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan, US sign defence pact
17 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific

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