Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said at the Upper House Budget Committee that the government had decided in advance to continue the project adding that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had given his consent, according to NHK broadcaster.
Prior to the referendum, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the outcome of the ballot would change nothing about the plans to move the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station within the prefecture. Abe, on his part, said after the referendum that the project on base relocation could not be delayed any longer.
Earlier in the day, Suga said that the government would hold talks with Okinawa authorities to discuss ways to reduce the burden of the US military presence on the prefecture and eliminate all risks.
The US Marine Corps base Futenma was constructed in 1945. Talks on its relocation to a less populated area within the Okinawa prefecture started over two decades ago, but the government's plans have been hampered by local residents' protests.
While Ginowan residents have been calling on the government to close the Futenma base due to their environmental concerns, aircraft incidents and accidents related to US troops' behaviour, residents of Henoko district are also unwilling to see the base relocated to their region. The administration of Okinawa would like to see the base outside the prefecture instead of its relocation to another site within its administrative borders and called a non-binding referendum in hope that it would demonstrate the prefecture’s strong opposition to the relocation project.