• Kyodo

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An official of the national government on Tuesday signed documents allowing the continued forcible lease of sites in Okinawa Prefecture to the U.S. military, despite opposition from a majority of owners of the land.

Mamoru Ikebe, an official at the Defense Agency’s Facilities Division, signed documents renewing lease contracts for a total of 12,720 sq. meters within the boundaries of U.S. military bases.

The procedure is based on the Special Land Use Law, which authorizes the national government to forcibly lease land to the U.S. military.

The largest site is a 12,360-sq.-meter plot, owned by 710 people and situated within the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan. The remaining 360 sq. meters of land makes up part of the Naha Port Facilities and is owned by seven people.

The Naha Regional Defense Facilities Administration Bureau requested in February that then Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori sign the documents under the Special Land Use Law, saying the property owners involved were unlikely to agree to the use of their land ahead of the Sept. 30, 2002, expiration of the central government’s current forcible-use arrangements.

The bureau had asked the owners to sign the contract, but only seven owners of land on Futenma Air Station agreed to sign, they said.

The central government is scheduled to ask Okinawa’s expropriation commission to make a final decision on the matter.

If the panel makes no decision within two months, however, the prime minister can approve the renewal under a July 1999 amendment to the law shifting the authority to sign forcible land-use contracts from a prefectural governor to the prime minister. The amendment took effect in April 2000.

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