Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga said Saturday he will take all possible means to revoke his predecessor’s approval of land reclamation for the relocation of a U.S. military base as he took part in a protest rally.
“From this day, Okinawa’s new battle begins. I will definitely not allow the construction of Henoko base,” Onaga told the crowd, pledging to revoke the land reclamation approval for the relocation of U.S. Corps Air Station Futenma “by employing all means.”
It is the first time that the governor, who was elected on an anti-base platform in 2014, has participated in an anti-relocation rally, which was held near the site for the relocation in the Henoko coastal district of Nago city.
As an administrative procedure, approval can be revoked in consideration of changes in circumstances since it was given. The Okinawa government argues that the land work approval can be revoked given prefectural residents’ disapproval of the base transfer plan as seen in local election results, among other developments.
But there is a possibility the central government will overturn Okinawa’s revocation by using a legal maneuver and forcibly executing the reclamation work.
Onaga did not say how soon he plans to revoke the land work approval, a move considered to be the best card he can play among few options left for him in his attempt to block the base relocation to the northern part of the island prefecture.
Some 3,500 people attended the rally, according to the organizer of the event.
The decision by Onaga to attend the rally came after he was forced to withdraw his order to suspend work on the site, following a Supreme Court ruling late last year that the governor’s attempt to revoke his predecessor’s December 2013 decision to approve land reclamation work was illegal.
Onaga, a strong opponent of the plan to relocate the Futenma base within the prefecture from densely populated Ginowan, wishes to show the public he is still eager to thwart the state government’s efforts, according to prefectural sources.
“All Okinawa Kaigi,” an organization comprising political parties and civic groups protesting the construction of a new U.S. military base in Nago, is hosting the rally in front of the gates of the Camp Schwab.
With Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine and lawmakers representing the prefecture also attending, the rally adopted a resolution saying, “As a consensus of the people of Okinawa and their supporters nationwide, we strongly demand the governments of Japan and the United States to relinquish the plan to build a new military base in Henoko.”
Since July 2014, protesters have been staging a sit-in by setting up tents in front of the gate and have been continuing their demonstrations.
Following the top court’s ruling in December, the central government has resumed construction of the new base. In February, it began offshore work in a bid to start bank protection work as early as April.
The Japanese and U.S. governments are sticking to the plan, saying 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.