A Japanese mayor who opposes moving a U.S. military base to his city in Okinawa won a hard-fought re-election battle on Sunday, dealing a potential blow to hopes in Washington and Tokyo that the lonh-delayed plan would move forward.

Nago city Mayor Susumu Inamine, who has vowed to block construction of the base by denying permits for the project, declared victory before 500 supporters at the city’s civic centre.

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. Inamine’s victory will make it more difficult to move forward, analysts said.

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