TOKYO - Oscar-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki on Wednesday threw his weight behind a fund aimed at blocking a controversial plan to move a US military base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.
Miyazaki, whose intricately-drawn stories have captured imaginations around the world, became a key figure in the Henoko Fund, which was launched in the Okinawan capital of Naha, local assemblyman Yonekichi Shinzato told AFP.
"The fund is aimed at supporting -- both mentally and physically -- anti-US base activists with the goal of blocking the construction of a new base in Henoko... and removing the Futenma base and relocating outside Okinawa," Shinzato said.
The celebrity endorsement is the latest move in a bitter, decades-old dispute involving the Japanese and American governments, and a vocal group of protesters in Okinawa, over the re-siting of the busy Futenma air base.
Okinawa is home to more than half of the 47,000 US service personnel stationed in Japan as part of a defence alliance, a proportion many islanders say is too high.
Futenma, whose busy runway sits in the middle of a densely-populated city, has become emblematic of that ill-will since Washington announced plans to move it in 1996 to the rural coastal spot of Henoko, in what the US hoped would ease tensions with the host community.
Deadlock has deepened recently after preparatory building work on the coast begun in the face of vehement opposition from the local government in Okinawa.
This is despite a meeting last month between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and anti-base Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga.
Regardless of the hardened standoff, defence and diplomatic chiefs of Japan and the United States reconfirmed in Washington last month the current plan to relocate to coastal Henoko "is the only solution."
Miyazaki's office issued his short comment Wednesday quoting the animator as saying "I thought I had no choice but to support them if people in Okinawa have such a resolve" to fight the plans.
Miyazaki's 2013 feature "The Wind Rises" -- which he said will be his last -- looks at the life of the man who invented Japan's Mitsubishi Zero fighter airplane used during World War II.