Monday, August 19, 2013

Okinawa shows vulnerability of Japan PM's popular appeal -

Masatoshi Onaga says Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is out of touch with Okinawa, one of Japan's poorest prefectures and the reluctant host to half the U.S. forces in the country.

To understand the island's pain, Onaga would like to see Tokyo-based leaders try living in the shadows of the Futenma air base, a facility targeted for closure since 1996 because of its location in a densely populated area, with warplanes taking off and landing over surrounding houses, hospitals and schools.

"The central government has no idea how serious the situation is here," said Onaga, 64.

The problem for Abe is that Onaga is not a banner-waving activist. He is the local head of Abe's own Liberal Democratic Party, and his opposition to the relocation of Futenma within Okinawa highlights a rift within the ruling party and a reminder that some of Abe's hardest work is ahead.

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