A total of 72.2 percent of those who voted in the referendum on the Japanese island of Okinawa voted against plans to build a new military airfield for US troops in their prefecture, the referendum’s results showed on 25 February.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he “took seriously” the results of the referendum in Okinawa on transferring the US Futenma base to Henoko in the same prefecture, but “it is impossible to postpone the transfer dates”.

He continued on by saying that the authorities need to “avoid a situation where the Futenma base, considered the most dangerous in the world, keeps being surrounded by schools and residential buildings”.

The statement comes after a non-binding referendum was held in Okinawa on 24 February, in which local residents expressed their attitude to the relocation of US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from the densely populated city of Ginowan, where it is currently situated, to the Henoko district. 

A total of 19.1 percent of voters supported the plans for the US base relocation, while 8.8 percent refrained from responding yes or no. In numerical terms, 434,273 people voted against the Tokyo-Washington plans, while 114,933 supported the move, with 52,682 others choosing neither of the options.

The US Marine Corps base Futenma was constructed in 1945. Talks on its relocation to a less populated area within the Okinawa prefecture started over two decades ago, but the government’s plans have been hampered by local residents’ protests.

While Ginowan residents have been calling on the government to close the Futenma base due to their environmental concerns, aircraft incidents and accidents related to the behavior of US troops, residents of Henoko district are also unwilling to see the base relocated to their region. The administration of Okinawa would like to see the base outside the prefecture instead of its relocation to another site within its administrative borders and called a non-binding referendum in hopes that it would demonstrate the prefecture’s strong opposition to the relocation project.

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