Photo/IllutrationMageshima in Nishinoomote, Kagoshima Prefecture, is scheduled to host U.S. aircraft carrier landing practice. Seen in the background is Tanegashima. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

NISHINOOMOTE, Kagoshima Prefecture--A former journalist opposed to U.S. military drills on a nearby island was elected mayor here March 19.

Shunsuke Yaita, 63, an independent, ran on a campaign pledge to fight a Tokyo-Washington project to host aircraft carrier landing drills on the small uninhabited island of Mageshima.

"Hosting U.S. military drills does not suit an island that is rich in history and nature,” Yaita said.

“I will remain opposed to the project to hold field carrier landing practice (FCLP) in Mageshima,” he added after defeating three other candidates in the race.

He said his first step as mayor would be to gather more information on the plan to move the drills to Mageshima.

Nishinoomote is located on Tanegashima island in the East China Sea, and Mageshima, which is 8 square kilometers, is 12 km to the west.

The islet, part of Nishinoomote city government’s jurisdiction, was named in a 2011 paper by the governments of Japan and the United States as the alternative site for FCLP, which has been held in Iwojima island far south of Tokyo.

The central government claims Mageshima is ideal for drills involving deafening noise.

Both Tokyo and Washington describe moving the practice site to Japan’s southwestern region as crucial to the alliance at a time of growing maritime assertiveness by Beijing.

With 13,275 eligible voters, turnout was high at 71.65 percent. Yaita won 2,951 votes.