WASHINGTON – The Okinawa affairs minister’s defeat in the Sunday election will not alter the bilateral arrangement to relocate the Futenma military base within the prefecture, according to the U.S. State Department.
“We still believe that moving forward on the replacement facility is in the best interests not just of the U.S. military and our security commitments in the region, but our security commitments to Japan, to the Japanese people,” department spokesman John Kirby said at a press briefing.
“We’ll continue to work with the government of Japan for the Futenma replacement facility and that project, and moving forward with it,” Kirby said in reference to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Aiko Shimajiri, a member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet, lost her seat in the single-seat Okinawa district to an independent newcomer opposed to the Futenma plan.
Kirby, however, declined comment on the election results, including the sweeping victory by Abe’s ruling coalition, because they are an internal matter of Japan. He only said: “Japan is a close ally and a friend and a partner. And we look forward to continuing that very close association with them going forward.”
Base-related issues and the bilateral pact governing the conduct of U.S. service personnel in Japan became the focus of the election in Okinawa following the murder of a local woman, allegedly by a U.S. civilian base worker.
Kirby said Washington is “mindful” of growing concerns among local residents: “We have been mindful of their concerns. And that’s not going to change.”
Asked about Abe’s victory opening the way for constitutional reform proposals, Kirby declined comment, saying, “I’m not going to speculate one way or another about policy changes that this election may or may not infuse into the system.”