'No' to US Warplanes and Marines
Monday, March 13, 2006 Posted: 10:38 AM JST
Residents in the southwestern Japanese city of Iwakuni Sunday rejected the central government's plan to move 57 U.S. warplanes and 1,600 additional marines to the area. With 100 percent of the votes counted, 43,433 had voted against the plan, while 5,369 were in favor.
"The 50 percent hurdle was a tough one to get over," Iwakuni Mayor Katsusuke Ihara said at a news conference Sunday evening. "But the high level of interest in this issue, and the clear understanding of its importance, led to people coming to the polls despite the weather."
The referendum is not binding, but the outcome greatly complicates talks on relocating U.S. forces throughout Japan. Opposition from communities all over Japan has been hampering efforts to reorganize the nearly 50,000 U.S. forces in Japan by the end of March.
"The people of Iwakuni understand the importance of the Japanese-U.S. alliance," said Mayor Ihara. "The plebiscite is not the ultimate decision on the issue, but we want the voice of local residents to be reflected in the central government's decision on the issue. That's what democracy is all about."
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