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NAGO, Okinawa — A Sept. 6 rally planned to support the construction of a new Marine Corps air station in the waters off northeast Okinawa has been called off.

A group of Nago businessmen who wanted to show support for the stalled project canceled the event in the wake of the Aug. 13 crash of a Marine helicopter on the grounds of Okinawa International University.

The school is adjacent to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, the base in the middle of urban Ginowan that the new airport is designed to replace.

A spokesman said the decision was made after Nago Mayor Tateo Kishimoto, a supporter of the base to be built on reclaimed land and a reef offshore from the village of Henoko, located within the Nago city limits, expressed concern about criticism the rally might receive from other Okinawans.

The rally, set for Nago City Hall, was to show support for the project, which has been stalled by a sit-in demonstration at the Henoko port that’s well into its fourth month. Organizers of the pro-base rally expected about 2,000 participants, including prominent local businessmen, Diet members and the mayors of communities in northern Okinawa.

“We postponed it to comply with mayor’s wish to give consideration to the sentiment of people of Okinawa,” said Susumu Asato, prefectural assembly member, who supports the new Henoko facility. He said the helicopter accident highlighted the need for the new base.

“To remove the danger from Ginowan, this air station that sits in the center of a heavily populated area must be moved to an offshore site in Henoko,” he said.

“But for now, we postponed our rally to give consideration to the public sentiment in the wake of the helicopter crash.”


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