Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga has decided to join a rally to protest the relocation of a U.S. military base to the coastal Henoko area of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture, slated to be held in the district later this week, a prefectural government source said Tuesday.
The decision came after Onaga, who was elected to the office on an antibase platform in 2014, ended up withdrawing the revocation of his predecessor’s approval for land reclamation work in October 2015 as the Supreme Court found it illegal late last year.
It would be the first time for the governor to take part in an anti-relocation rally held in the Henoko district.
Onaga, a strong opponent of a plan to relocate U.S. Air Station Futenma from densely populated Ginowan inside the southern island prefecture, is aiming to give the impression to the public that he is still eager to thwart the state government’s attempt, the source said.
An organization, “All Okinawa Kaigi,” which comprises political parties and civic groups protesting the construction of a new U.S. military base in Nago, is scheduled to host the rally on Saturday in front of the gate of the U.S. ‘ Camp Schwab. It is trying to draw around 3,000 people.
Following the top court’s ruling in December, the central government has resumed the construction of the new base. In February, it began offshore work in a bid to start bank protection work in as early as April.
Onaga has said local permission is needed for the work in waters where fishing rights are set, but the state government deems it is no longer necessary in the area as a local fishery cooperative decided to give up their rights in November. Onaga is “facing a deadlock,” his aide said.
The Japanese and U.S. governments are sticking to the plan, saying that it is “the only solution” to address noise problems and accident risks posed by the base without undermining the perceived deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. alliance.