NAHA, Japan – Disrupted last year and restored this summer, the cohesion in the U.S.-Japan alliance is now partly dependent on two local politicians who appear certain to cause headaches for Washington and Tokyo.

The two — Hirokazu Nakaima and Yoichi Iha — are locked in a tight gubernatorial race in Okinawa that has broad implications for the alliance.

That is because the Okinawan governor has the right under Japanese law to approve — or not — pending construction plans for the controversial Futenma U.S. Marine air base, currently tucked next to schoolyards and houses in Okinawa’s densely populated Ginowan City.

Both Washington and Tokyo want to relocate Futenma to a northern part of Okinawa prefecture, calling it an essential deterrent to an ascendant China and a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Nakaima, on the campaign trail, promises to make relocation difficult; he wants Futenma removed from the prefecture. Iha promises to make it almost impossible. He wants Futenma removed from Japan.

The race, to be decided Nov. 28, has left officials on both sides of the alliance with a growing sense of helplessness, as the security interests of two central governments meet the opposition of a small fed-up island.

Okinawa has hosted U.S. troops since World War II, receiving massive subsidies from Tokyo to ease the burden, and residents have voiced anti-base sentiments for decades. In the past year or two, though, those sentiments have become near-universal here.

“While Okinawa didn’t have one voice in the past, we have now become much more united,” said Sueko Yamauchi, a local lawmaker. “A new base will simply not be accepted.”

According to a recent poll, 84 percent of Okinawans oppose the current plan for Futenma. And in recent months, politicians have won races by playing to that majority. An anti-base candidate was elected mayor of Nago, near the proposed relocation site, in January. Others won municipal elections this fall.

An anti-base candidate will no doubt win the gubernatorial election, too, in part because the incumbent Nakaima — who in 2006 said he “didn’t completely oppose” relocation — changed his views in line with the times.

The current plan is part of a broader initiative between the U.S. and Japan that calls for the transfer of 8,000 U.S. troops and 9,000 dependents to Guam.

Last year, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that troops will move to Guam only if the Futenma facility is relocated to the agreed-upon site, on coastal landfill near Henoko, in the prefecture’s less-populous north.

One U.S. official involved in the alliance calls this election “a critical juncture” but emphasizes that the current relocation plan remains viable — and the only concrete option for Tokyo and Washington, though even that has generated argument.

Nakaima, 71, would prefer to have the election be a referendum on the economy, not the Futenma plan.

For Iha, 57, Futenma is the issue he lives to confront. He says Japan faces no direct military threat from China or North Korea.

At a recent rally, held on a street corner, Iha mounted a milk crate. “This is the election that either allows or does not allow the building of the base,” he told passersby.

“It’s time to reset the alliance,” Iha elaborated in an interview at his campaign headquarters. “The Japan-U.S. relationship was put together as a product of the Cold War. The Cold War is over.”