Voting Underway In Okinawa Referendum On Us Base

Voting underway in Okinawa referendum on US base

Voters in Okinawa are casting ballots in a referendum on the ongoing land reclamation work to relocate a US military base within the southwestern Japanese prefecture.

Election officials say the estimated voter turnout was 7.60 percent as of 11 AM on Sunday. The officials also say 237,447 people, or about 20 percent of eligible voters, cast early ballots before Sunday.

Voters are being asked to choose whether they support, oppose, or neither support nor oppose the landfill work to relocate the US Marine Corps Futenma air station to a coastal area of Henoko district in Nago City.

The result of the referendum is not legally binding. But a prefectural ordinance stipulates that, if the most popular option is chosen by at least one quarter of all eligible voters, the governor must respect the outcome and convey it to the Japanese prime minister and the US president.

Vote counting will begin immediately after polling stations close at 8 PM.

The central government says the relocation is the only way to reduce the dangers posed by the airbase, which is currently located in a crowded residential area of Ginowan City.

The Okinawa government, however, opposes the plan. It wants the base moved out of the prefecture altogether. Okinawa hosts about 70 percent of US military facilities in Japan. Some people there argue it's an unfair burden.