Suga, when asked whether the government will continue working to relocate US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the densely populated Okinawan city of Ginowan to the Henoko district of the same prefecture despite of the results of the referendum, said that "in general we think this way".
An official campaign was announced earlier in the day to prepare a referendum in Okinawa on the transfer of the Futenma military base in Okinawa to the Henoko district where Nago is located. The referendum is scheduled for February 24. A bulletin will contain three options — for, against, neither one nor the other one. There are 1.15 million voters in the prefecture and while the referendum is not legally binding its results could cause a split among the prefecture's population and exacerbate the contradictions between local authorities and the government in Tokyo.
The relocation of the US base was launched in 2017. In August 2018, the prefecture's authorities revoked the land reclamation permit for the new site, citing concerns over the soft ground in the area. In early November, however, the relocation process resumed as Tokyo reversed the ban by local authorities.
The plans to relocate the US air base have sparked protests among tens of thousands of local residents demanding that the facility be removed from Okinawa completely, and not just moved to another location.
Okinawa, which accounts for a small fraction of Japan's territory, hosts 74 percent of US military facilities and more than half of all US forces deployed in Japan.