NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Residents living near U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa sued for damages Thursday for excessive noise levels.
Lawyers for the 1,199 plaintiffs demanded ¥470 million in compensation from the central government during the first session before the Naha District Court’s branch in the city of Okinawa.
Legal representatives for the central government in turn asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
The damages claim comes on the heels of the recent, and bitterly opposed, deployment of tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys at the base.
At the hearing, Hideo Miyaguni, who heads the legal team representing the residents, said they can’t accept the base’s continued presence in the crowded city of Ginowan.
Though demanding compensation, the plaintiffs’ ultimate goal is to seek the facility’s early relocation, Miyaguni said.
The plaintiffs allege their neighborhoods have been exposed to a Weighted Equivalent Continuous Perceived Noise Level (WECPNL) of 75 or higher over three years beginning in late July 2009 — higher than the noise level in subway cars.
The suit is separate from one in which more than 3,000 plaintiffs are demanding an end to flights at the base and damages for noise-induced illness.
Japan and the U.S. have agreed to relocate the Futenma air station to the less populated Henoko area farther north on Okinawa Island, but local residents continue to demand it be moved outside the prefecture altogether and have stalled this plan for years.
Nakaima’s Obama appeal
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima has urged re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama to reduce the heavy load on the prefecture and its residents from hosting American military facilities.
“I would like the president to substantially reduce Okinawa’s (burden),” Nakaima said in Naha on Wednesday, following Obama’s re-election. “He should make a decision commensurate with his position as president of a superpower.”
Meanwhile, a senior Okinawa prefectural official complained that Obama made no move to support efforts to move the base outside the prefecture during his first term, and voiced pessimism about the next four years proving any different. A bilateral accord calls for the base to be relocated in Okinawa.
“The Futenma base issue has made no progress at all under the Obama administration. We don’t hold any expectations for the president’s second term.”