Masahide Ota, a former governor of Okinawa Prefecture and a fierce opponent of the heavy U.S. military presence there, died on June 12 at the age of 92.

A university professor who attended graduate school in the United States, Ota ran successfully for Okinawa governor in 1990 against the incumbent, Junji Nishime, who was seeking a fourth term.

Ota would serve for two terms and it was during his second stint in 1996 that Japan and the United States reached an agreement to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

It still remains a burning issue 21 years later as the relocation has still not materialized, due largely to local opposition to moving the base to the Henoko district of Nago, also in the prefecture.

Negotiations that led to the 1996 agreement were triggered by local outrage when a 12-year-old Okinawan girl was raped and beaten by three U.S. servicemen in 1995.

Some Okinawa landowners had refused to sign contracts to allow the U.S. military to use their land. Ota as governor was asked to cooperate with the U.S. military and sign the contracts on behalf of the landowners, but he refused.

In October 1995, Ota participated in what was probably the largest protest rally ever held in Okinawa that was attended by 85,000 demonstrators. He called for a reduction and realignment of U.S. military bases in Okinawa and demanded a revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement that gave preferential treatment to U.S. military personnel who committed crimes in Japan.

He also called for the return of the land where the Futenma base was located, in the middle of a heavily populated residential district of Ginowan, in central Okinawa.