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Opposition lawmaker Tamaki may run in Okinawa governor race

Denny Tamaki (Kyodo)

NAHA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Opposition lawmaker Denny Tamaki hinted Monday he may run in the Okinawa gubernatorial election next month, after he was asked to do so by a group opposing the planned relocation of a key U.S. military base within the prefecture.

If Tamaki, secretary general of the small opposition Liberal Party, decides to run in the Sept. 30 election following the recent death of Gov. Takeshi Onaga, the race is likely to be a one-on-one battle between Tamaki and Atsushi Sakima, the former mayor of Ginowan who is supported by the central government pushing for the relocation.

"I would have to prepare (the campaign promises) including what kind of perspective should be applied to consider the basics of policies," Tamaki told reporters in the city of Okinawa.

The 58-year-old radio personality-turned lower house member said he will likely reach a decision later in the week after consulting with his supporters.

The focus of the contest will be the central government's plan to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential area in Ginowan to the less populated coastal district of Henoko in Nago.

Tamaki, a four-term member of the House of Representatives whose constituency includes the Henoko region, was asked to run Sunday by a group consisting of local politicians and others who are against the relocation.

Shortly before Onaga, who was a strong opponent of the relocation plan, died of pancreatic cancer on Aug. 8, he recorded a voice message designating Tamaki and local businessman Morimasa Goya as the candidates to succeed him as governor, according to local political sources.

Goya, who operates retail and construction business Kanehide Group, supports Tamaki as candidate for governor, the sources said.

The 54-year-old Sakima resigned as mayor of Ginowan on Saturday to run in the gubernatorial race. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner the Komeito party are accelerating efforts to assist him for the election.

The central government believes the controversial relocation plan, which Tokyo and Washington have agreed to, is the "sole solution" to remove the dangers posed by the Futenma base while maintaining the perceived deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. alliance.

But many local residents of Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, hope the Futenma base will be moved out of the southern island prefecture due to repeated accidents and crimes involving U.S. military aircraft and personnel.

On Sunday, Shigenobu Asato, the 48-year-old chairman of a local logistics company who had expressed his intention to join the race, told reporters he will give up on the plan and instead back Sakima, in a move that would form a united front among LDP-led conservatives.

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