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Okinawa election loss creates political headache for Japan's PM Abe

Published on Jan 19, 2014 9:10 PM
Mr Susumu Inamine (front, centre), a candidate for mayoral election in Nago, celebrates his victory with supporters on January 19, 2014. Mr Inamine won in a mayoral election on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa which is being closely watched as a local verdict on the long-stalled and controversial relocation of a US military base. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (Reuters) - The re-election of a city mayor opposed to a plan to relocate a controversial United States air base on Japan's Okinawa island has created a political headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and threatens 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 and 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 United States expressed "disappointment" with his Dec 26 visit to Yasukuni Shrine, a pilgrimage that further strained relations with China and South Korea, which see the Tokyo shrine to Japan's war dead as a symbol of the country's past militarism.

Mr Susumu Inamine - a staunch opponent of the relocation plan - was assured re-election as mayor of the Okinawa city of Nago, Kyodo said, citing projections shortly after the polls closed.

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