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Iwakuni mayor stresses importance of referendum

The municipal government of Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture held a series of citizens' meetings to explain about the referendum slated for March 12 regarding the government plan to relocate a U.S. carrier-based airwing to the U.S. Marine Corps Iwakuni Air Station.

In the meeting on February 22, Mayor Ihara Katsusuke pointed out that the central government is now requesting the municipal government to accept the plan, and emphasized that the referendum is so important that it will have a serious bearing on Iwakuni's future.

“Taking into consideration the awful hardship and anxieties the residents living near the U.S. base have, and the need for a Iwakuni where children can live without fear, the municipal government has consistently made clear that it can not accept the relocation plan,” the mayor stated.

On his decision to hold the referendum, Ihara said that it is necessary for the city to confirm the residents' will and to clearly report to the central government the local opinion as expressed in the vote.

The Koizumi government is intent on going ahead with the plan no matter what the result of the referendum.

The mayor stressed that the central government as well as the U.S. Forces are supposed to have a common understanding of the need to obtain the understanding and cooperation of the local residents in order to stably operate the base.

He emphasized that local residents' will, in particular their will expressed by the referendum, is important, and that the central government must respect it.

Concerning the final report expected to be made public in late March by the Japanese and U.S. governments on the realignment of the U.S. Forces in Japan, he said that it is necessary for the municipal government to establish a responsible position as soon as possible.
- Akahata, February 24, 2006

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