Tuesday, February 02, 2010

‘Nago vote won’t affect relocation plan’

‘Nago vote won’t affect relocation plan’

Thursday, 28 January 2010 04:43 by Audrey McAvoy |
The Associated Press

CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii — The election of a mayor who opposes moving a U.S. air field to his Japanese town isn’t a setback to efforts to fulfill a 2006 bilateral agreement to relocate the base, the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific said Tuesday.

On Sunday, voters in the town of Nago on Okinawa elected base opponent Susumu Inamine as mayor over incumbent Yoshikazu Shimabukuro. Inamine had campaigned against any expansion of U.S. military presence in the area and won with 52.3 percent of the vote.

Adm. Robert F. Willard said he believes more issues than just the Marine air field contributed to the mayor’s election.

“There’s probably a broader set of questions and a broader analysis that is appropriate to determine who won the election and why,” Willard said. “I don’t think it should be regarded as a setback.”

Still, Willard said the U.S. has “a good amount of work to do” to explain the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance to the Japanese people.

“We bear a responsibility to share that message with them and to encourage the Japanese government, as well as to share with their people the importance of the alliance — why it exists and what benefits all of Asia derives from it,” Willard said.

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