Fri, Aug 10, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Okinawa Governor Onaga dies


Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga holds up a banner reading “No new US base at Henoko” on May 17, 2015, during a rally against US military bases in Naha, Japan.

Photo: AP

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who led opposition to US military bases on the southern Japanese island, has died of pancreatic cancer at 67.

He underwent surgery in April for the cancer and resumed work in May. Onaga had said he was determined to fulfill his duties and live up to the expectations of Okinawans who supported his fight against a US military base relocation plan and the heavy US troop presence on the small island.

Okinawa Deputy Governor Kiichiro Jahana had earlier on Wednesday said that Onaga had lost consciousness on Tuesday.

The deputy, with teary eyes, said he was temporarily assuming Onaga’s duties, although he still hoped for the governor’s recovery.

Hours later, Jahana told reporters Onaga had died.

“I’m really, really sorry about the outcome,” he said.

Onaga on Saturday last week told him that he still wanted to pursue his effort to stop the relocation, Jahana said.

Local rules require an election within 50 days to choose Onaga’s successor.

Onaga was born in 1950 in the prefectural capital, Naha, when Okinawa was still under US occupation after World War II.

He was elected in November 2014 on a pledge to scrap plans to relocate a US Marine Corp air station to a less densely populated part of the island and close the air station instead.

Opponents of the plan say it only shifts the burden and the base should be moved off the island entirely.

Onaga often confronted top central government officials, saying that Tokyo’s approach was high-handed and neglected the will of Okinawans.

In 2015, Onaga criticized Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga for “looking down on” Okinawans, citing Suga’s comment that the government planned to go ahead with the relocation plan.

Onaga filed a series of lawsuits against the central government, seeking a court injunction to stop landfill at the planned relocation site. He was preparing another legal action when he died.

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