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Opposition leaders gather in Okinawa to highlight U.S. base issue

Naha, Okinawa Pref., July 2 (Jiji Press) — In the run-up to the July 21 election of the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of Japan’s parliament, opposition party leaders gathered in Okinawa Prefecture to highlight their united front against the government-backed construction of a U.S. military base in the Henoko coastal area in the southern prefecture.

During a joint campaign event before the Okinawa prefectural government building in Naha on Monday, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan chief Yukio Edano criticized the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for pressing ahead with the Henoko base project despite persistent opposition from local communities.

“Let us light a signal fire here in Okinawa for restoring decent democracy,” Edano stressed.

Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii called for scrapping the Henoko base plan and creating an Okinawa without U.S. bases.

The new base in Henoko in the city of Nago is being built as a replacement facility for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air base in a heavily populated area in the city of Ginowan, also Okinawa. The Okinawa government is demanding that the Futenma base be moved out of the prefecture.

The event was also attended by Democratic Party for the People head Yuichiro Tamaki and Social Democratic Party parliamentary affairs chief Kantoku Teruya.

The four opposition parties are slated to field a unified candidate in the Okinawa voting district for the Upper House.

In Okinawa, the opposition camp beat the ruling parties in a gubernatorial election last year and a House of Representatives by-election in April.

“Okinawa is the birthplace of a coalition between opposition parties and citizens,” Edano told reporters later on Monday. “We can expand this movement throughout the country.”

Meanwhile, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, keen to deflect voter attention from issues related to many U.S. bases in Okinawa, is set to focus on regional economic development in its election campaign in the prefecture.

At the moment, there are no plans for Abe, president of the LDP, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to visit Okinawa for campaigning. In the last Okinawa governorship poll and Lower House by-election, Suga spearheaded the party’s campaign there.

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