Okinawa chief orders a halt to base relocation work


Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga on Monday ordered the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau to suspend work on building a new base for U.S. troops, a move that may further antagonize the central government.

Onaga told reporters that coral has been damaged by large concrete blocks placed on the seabed off Henoko, a location to which the Futenma Air Station of the U.S. Marine Corps is scheduled to move. The Okinawa Prefectural Government will launch a detailed investigation by the end of the month, he said.

Last August, the then governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, agreed that the bureau could clear away reefs where land reclamation would take place. But he attached the condition that the bureau should follow prefectural instructions to protect the public interest.

The damage Onaga alleges is outside the agreed reef-clearance zone.

Onaga has said he suspects the apparent damage the blocks have caused goes against public interest.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko on Monday called Onaga’s directive highly regrettable. Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo, he said the defense bureau has fulfilled all of the Okinawa government’s requests in conducting the work.