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TOKYO — Okinawa leaders urged U.S. and Japanese government officials on Tuesday to scrap plans to construct a new U.S. Marine Corps air facility on Okinawa after thousands protested against the plan during a rally Sunday on Okinawa.

The mayors of Ginowan and Naha and Okinawa prefectural assemblyman Yonekichi Shinzato visited the Ministry of Defense and U.S. Embassy to deliver a resolution adopted at the rally, they said during a news conference in Tokyo after the visit.

They said the resolution demands that a 2006 bilateral agreement to realign U.S. troops in Japan be scrapped and called for the immediate closure of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the middle of urban Ginowan. They said it also denounced plans to move Futenma units and assets to a proposed new airfield at Camp Schwab and demanded that the Marine units move off the island or even out of Japan.

The resolution urged Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to keep his promise to review the 2006 agreement, noting that he did not waver or give in when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited and demanded that Japan move forward with the plan, they said.

“The new administration must openly insist on hearing the voices of the Okinawa residents, not giving in to the pressure from the U.S. but negotiating equally in Japan-U.S. talks when meeting with President Obama on Nov. 13 for the Japan-U.S. summit,” the resolution stated.

The visit by the leaders came three days before Obama’s scheduled first visit to Japan.

“As Mr. Hatoyama tries to establish a new relationship between Japan and the United States, I believe how this Okinawa problem will be resolved will be the touch stone of this new relationship,” Ginowan Mayor Yoichi Iha said.

Iha said it would be like committing suicide if Hatoyama keeps the plan that was decided by the former administration.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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