Japan takes step to accelerate landfill work at planned Henoko base site

JIJI, Kyodo

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki on Wednesday urged the central government to immediately stop landfill work as part of land reclamation at a planned U.S. base site in the Henoko coastal area of Okinawa Prefecture, after it took a step to accelerate the work the previous day.

The Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau on Tuesday started to unload soil transported by sea to another location in the Henoko area, in addition to the existing unloading point.

Previously, for the unloading of soil used for landfill, only a seawall constructed on the north of Oura Bay had been used. The new unloading site is part of a seawall now being built on the south of the bay.

When Tamaki made the request in a meeting with Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya, Iwaya said he wants Tamaki “to understand the central government’s position,” according to Tamaki.

The central government plans to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air station in the city of Ginowan in Okinawa to Henoko in Nago, another city in the prefecture.

The construction of the replacement facility continues in Henoko even after a majority of people voted against the plan in a prefectural referendum in February.

In waters around the seawall construction site on the south of the bay, there are corals that are planned to be transplanted. But the regional defense bureau believes that the corals will not be affected even after about half of the 515-meter-long planned southern seawall is completed.

Tamaki claimed that the land minister’s recent decision to invalidate the prefecture’s cancellation of its landfill approval was “illegal.”

Also on Tuesday, the Okinawa government held a symposium in Tokyo to demonstrate local opposition to the planned construction of the new U.S. military base.

It is the first time for the prefectural government to hold such a symposium in Tokyo. It aims to hold similar events in other major cities across the country to rally support for its opposition to the base relocation plan.

“We want you to think about (Okinawa’s situation) as if it’s your own matter,” Tamaki said in a speech.

“You need to believe people will move politics,” he emphasized.

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