Okinawans Vote Down U.S. Military Base

MONDAY, DEC. 22, 1997

Voters in Okinawa dealt a sharp and unexpected blow Sunday to plans for an American military base there that Japan and the United States have been planning for more than a year.

The vote, the first referendum ever held in Japan about a proposed American military base, offered the remarkable spectacle of 16,000 voters in a remote Japanese town defying their prime minister and threats of economic punishment if they opposed the base. They have thrown into doubt a project that has been discussed and researched at length between the highest levels of American and Japanese government.

The outcome of the referendum underscored the antipathy in Okinawa to American military bases there. The vote also raised questions about the reliability of Japan in the American-Japan security partnership, and it throws into uncertainty a widely-hailed plan by the two governments to consolidate the American military bases in Okinawa.

“This is every citizen’s victory,” said Yasuhiro Miyagi, an opponent of the American bases. “We do not need bases. And we seek peace.”

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