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Mayoral election in small-town Japan seen as referendum on US air base in Okinawa

A small-town election Sunday on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa is being closely watched from Washington to Tokyo as a referendum on long-delayed plans to move a U.S. air base to the community of 62,000 people.

Incumbent Mayor Susumu Inamine (soo-soo-moo ee-nah-mee-neh) opposes the move. He faces pro-relocation candidate Bunshin Suematsu (boon-sheen soo-eh-mat-soo) in the Nago (nah-goh) city election.

The incumbent vows to block construction by denying permits for the project.

The U.S. and Japan agreed in 1996 to move the Marines Corps Futenma air station to Nago from a more congested part of Okinawa, but many Okinawans want the base off their island completely.

Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which supports the move, is wooing voters with promises of additional development funds for Nago.

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