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Okinawa to keep eye on Trump's response to U.S. military base issue

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga says he will keep an eye on a response to the U.S. base issue following Donald Trump's election as the next president of the United States.

Speaking at the prefectural government headquarters, Onaga focused on remarks made by the president-elect, who has criticized the United States' spending on defense of its allies including Japan.

"Based on his statements, he is thinking about new ideas in politics. I want to keep my hopes up and keep an eye on the response he will take to the Okinawa base issue," Onaga said.

Okinawa hosts 74 percent of the facilities in Japan that are used exclusively by the U.S. military, and a plan is underway to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the Okinawa Prefecture city of Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago in the prefecture. There has been a mixture of hope and concern among prefectural residents over how Trump's views on the U.S. military in Japan will influence the base issue.

Onaga, who is opposed to relocation of the base within the prefecture, has taken Trump's statements positively as a "new approach." Seeking an opportunity to talk together and share Okinawa's position, Onaga sent a congratulatory message, saying he intended to visit the United States as early as February next year.

However, some have questioned the true intentions of Trump, who has adopted a stance of putting America's profits first.

Yoshitami Oshiro, 76, a Nago Municipal Assembly member who is opposed to the relocation of the Futenma base to Nago, commented, "America has the perception that the U.S. military bases in Okinawa are the trophies earned through sacrifices in the Battle of Okinawa during the Pacific War. I don't think they will let go of the bases that easily."

Masatoshi Onaga, 67, deputy chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's prefectural chapter in Okinawa, who supports the relocation of the Futenma base to Henoko stated that if Trump's statements were really put into effect then it would bring great changes to Japan's security. But he added, "It seems that he is toning things down. I can't comment until after he assumes office."

The Ministry of Defense in Tokyo has closely watched the U.S. presidential election.

One Self-Defense Force official commented, "The United States, a major power, will not change greatly through Trump alone. I don't think there will be much change in the form of the Japan-U.S. alliance."

Mindful of China's maritime advances during the Democratic Party administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, the official said, "I'd like to hope the Republican administration will properly face up to China." At the same time, the official added, "It's only a matter of time before Trump will from a businessman's perspective ask Japan to shoulder a (heavier) financial burden in stationing U.S. military forces in Japan."

Another official said he was surprised that Trump was elected president, but added, "I'll just see how things go for the time being. I don't want him to cause confusion with radical remarks."

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