Japan election weighs controversy of US bases on Okinawa

Okinawans are choosing a governor in an election that many see hinging on how voters feel about the American military presence on the southwestern Japanese island.

Voters were deciding between four candidates Sunday, with it expected to be a close race between two: an outspoken critic of the bases and a ruling party-backed candidate pushing the status quo.

The winner succeeds Takeshi Onaga, who died in August of pancreatic cancer. He wanted the bases off Okinawa.

Denny Tamaki, a legislator, is pledging to continue with Onaga’s “spirit.”

Atsushi Sakima, a mayor, wants to work with the national government to sort out the problem.

Under a treaty, the U.S. maintains forces in Japan, two thirds on Okinawa. The arrangement has long been protested by some as an unfair burden on Okinawa.

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