Japan's Abe suffers setback with Okinawa election loss
TOKYO (REUTERS) - A city mayor opposed to a plan to relocate a controversial US airbase on Japan's Okinawa island was re-elected on Sunday, creating a political headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and threatening friction with Washington.
Delays in relocating the US Marines' Futenma air base, a move first agreed between Tokyo and Washington in 1996, have long been an irritant in US-Japan ties. Mr Abe is keen to make progress on the project as he seeks tighter ties with the United States in the face of an assertive China.
Mr Abe's ties with Washington suffered after the US expressed "disappointment" with his Dec 26 visit to Yasukuni Shrine. The pilgrimage further strained relations with China and South Korea, which see the Tokyo shrine to Japan's war dead as a symbol of its past militarism.
Mr Susumu Inamine - a staunch opponent of the relocation plan - was re-elected as mayor of the Okinawa city of Nago, defeating an opponent who had backed the project and run with the strong support of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).