Son of U.S. Marine becomes governor of Okinawa on promise to kick out U.S. military

Denny Tamaki, center, celebrates with his supporters after winning the Okinawan gubernatorial elections in Naha, southern island of Okinawa, Japan, on Sunday. Photo by Hitoshi Maeshiro/EPA-EFE

Oct. 1 (UPI) — The son of a U.S. Marine won the election for governor of Okinawa, Japan, on a campaign promise to move the American military out of the prefecture.

Denny Tamaki, 58, who also became the first mixed-race governor in Japan, will succeed Takeshi Onaga, who died last month from pancreatic cancer.

Onaga was opposed to U.S. military bases on the island prefecture and Tamaki plans to continue his predecessor’s plans to oppose the American presence there.

“The U.S. military is out of control,” Onaga said in July. “They can’t exercise any oversight, there are no signs they will reform and the Japanese government can’t handle them…Indeed, the whole U.S. military is going crazy.”

Onaga’s complaints about the U.S. military came after several emergency landings of U.S. aircraft in civilian areas. But the tensions between the local population and U.S. military has been ongoing and problematic for years, including instances of violent crimes committed by U.S. service members.

Despite the local population’s denouncement of more U.S. military presence via the ballot box, Tamaki’s efforts are at odds with Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which supports the U.S. military in Okinawa and has plans to build a new U.S. Marine air base on the island.

“I’d like to promise that I will build on Governor Onaga’s foundation,” Tamaki told a local television station after winning the election, according to the Washington Post. “What people cannot accept is the relocation to Henoko, and I will firmly carry out the will of the people.”

One way Tamaki plans to obstruct the ruling party’s plans is to refuse approval for a landfill that would be used to build a runway for the proposed air base, according to The New York Times.

However, the national government has argued before that it can overrule governor decisions in the name of national security, leaving Tamaki’s plans in doubt. Nonetheless, Okinawa’s new governor remains hopeful.

“We have to know that even small ants can move an elephant’s foot,” Tamaki said.


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