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Another blow to plan to move U.S. base on Okinawa

TOKYO - Japanese voters delivered another blow Sunday to a stalled agreement to relocate a key American military base on Okinawa by electing a mayor who campaigned on a promise to oppose the project.

The vote in the Okinawa city of Nago increases pressure on Japan's left-leaning government to mothball an agreement with the United States about the base - risking a rift between the allies at a time of rising Asia security concerns from North Korea's nuclear program and China's rising military strength.

Residents of Nago chose challenger Susumu Inamine, who campaigned against any expansion of U.S. military presence in the area, over incumbent Yoshikazu Shimabukuro.

Nago is where Washington and Tokyo agreed in 2006 to move the Futenma U.S. Marine airfield from a more crowded part of the southern island.

While the city mayor has little power to decide national policy, the vote could prove pivotal in Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's upcoming decision on whether to implement the relocation pact. - AP

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