The Japanese government is set to resume construction work at the new site of a key U.S. air base within Okinawa Prefecture Tuesday after suspending it in March amid a row with the local government over its relocation.
The restart of construction comes after Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga on Monday rescinded an action aimed at blocking the relocation work following his recent defeat in a lawsuit filed by the central government over the plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
In Tokyo on Tuesday morning, Onaga met Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and called for consultation between the central and local governments prior to the resumption of the relocation work.
According to Onaga, Suga maintained that the central government will not budge on its policy position, a sign that it plans to proceed with the work.
The central and local governments have been locked in a dispute over the plan to move Futenma base from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to the less populated Henoko coastal area of Nago.
Onaga’s predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, in 2013 approved the central government’s request for landfill work in Nago. But Onaga, who was elected in 2014 on a pledge to oppose the relocation of the Futenma base within Okinawa, revoked the approval in October 2015.
After decades of hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, many people in Okinawa want the Futenma base to be relocated outside the prefecture. They are frustrated with noise, crime and accidents linked to the U.S. bases, and safety concerns were again sparked in the wake of a Dec. 13 crash-landing of a U.S. Marines Osprey aircraft off Nago.
The central government has maintained that the current relocation plan, crafted under an accord with the United States, is “the only solution” for removing the dangers posed by the Futenma base which is situated close to schools and homes, without undermining the perceived deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. alliance.
A legal fight between the central and local governments began following Onaga’s revocation and it ended last week with the Supreme Court ruling against the governor’s position.
The governor took steps to rescind his revocation Monday, which is expected to become formally effective later in the day. But the standoff over the relocation plan is likely to drag on, with Onaga vowing to continue to do his utmost to thwart the project through other means.