The Japanese government on Monday launched offshore construction work to build a replacement facility for a U.S. base in Okinawa amid strong local opposition.
The work began after U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed last week to go ahead with the base relocation.
The work is part of the central government’s plan to relocate the Air Station Futenma from a densely populated area of Ginowan to the Henoko coastal area in Nago, both in the southern island prefecture.
Tokyo has argued that the base relocation plan under an accord with Washington is “the only solution” for eliminating the dangers posed by the Futenma base without undermining the deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. security alliance.
The Okinawa prefectural government, however, is seeking for the base to be moved out of the prefecture altogether.
The offshore construction work will place more than 200 concrete blocks to act as a screen to prevent debris and sediment generated from coastal revetment work from spreading. The central government will also conduct an undersea survey.
Ahead of the construction work, a group of vessels carrying the concrete blocks arrived Sunday near the site. The ships will also be used to carry out the survey.
After starting relocation work in Henoko in October 2015, the central government suspended it in March last year following an agreement with Okinawa under court mediation as part of efforts to break the impasse on the issue.
But Tokyo resumed land construction work on Dec. 27 at the U.S. ‘ Camp Schwab neighboring the relocation site after the Supreme Court ruled against Okinawa’s opposition in a case brought by the central government in July.
Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga returned on Sunday evening from a U.S. trip to relay local opposition to the relocation plan to the administration of President Donald Trump.
He is likely to seek to thwart the project by such steps as refusing to give permission for moving coral reefs in the land reclamation area.