The Okinawa prefectural government filed a fresh lawsuit against the central government on Monday, seeking a halt in the ongoing construction work for the relocation of a U.S. air base within the southern island prefecture.
The latest lawsuit underscores longtime odds between the central and local governments over the plan to relocate U.S. Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to the less populated Henoko coastal area of Nago, partly by reclaiming land off the coastal area.
The move follows a Supreme Court ruling last December that the governor’s attempt to revoke his predecessor’s 2013 decision to approve land reclamation work was illegal.
In the fresh lawsuit, the prefectural government argues that the central government is acting illegally without securing permission from the governor for work that involves damaging rock on the seabed where fishing rights have been granted.
It also filed an injunction to block the construction work before the court hands down a ruling.
The central government, meanwhile, plans to refute that legal precedent shows that the prefectural government’s complaint is unlawful and it does not need the permission.
The first stage of the land reclamation process saw the central government begin building seawalls for the planned replacement facility for the Futenma base in late April, following its victory in legal wrangling at the top court over the base relocation plan.
Under the plan to transfer the functions of the Futenma airfield to the site adjacent to the Marines’ Camp Schwab, the central government is scheduled to reclaim around 157 hectares of land in waters off the Henoko area and construct a V-shaped runway.
Many people in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, want the Futenma base to be removed outside the prefecture altogether.
Japan and the United States agreed on the return of the land used for the Futenma base in 1996 and announced in 2006 a road map for realigning the U.S. military presence in Japan, which included transferring the airfield to the Henoko coastal area.
The central government has maintained that the current relocation plan is “the only solution” for removing the dangers posed by the Futenma base, without undermining the perceived deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. alliance.