The governor of Japan's southern Okinawa region says he is heading to Washington to convey local objections to a plan to relocate a U.S. air base from one area of the island to another.

A plan set in 1996 would move U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma to a less developed area on Okinawa.

Gov. Takeshi Onaga was elected in November on promises to fight the move.

He said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday that he hopes to present his case to officials in Washington later this month.

Okinawa houses three-quarters of the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan, and locals want the base moved off the island altogether. Protests have gained momentum, with some 35,000 people turning out last week.