• Kyodo

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In a bid to block the planned relocation of the Futenma military base within Okinawa, the prefectural government has created a panel to examine the last governor’s approval of the offshore landfill project for the new site.

The six-member panel, including lawyers and environmental experts, will submit a report in April at the earliest to the current governor, Takeshi Onaga.

Despite Onaga’s vowed opposition to moving Futenma within Okinawa, the Abe administration plans to forge ahead with the transfer of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a densely populated area in Ginowan to a coastal area in Nago in line with an accord with the United States.

“We see no change in our policy of steadily going ahead,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference in Tokyo.

Onaga, who was elected in November, told a press conference Monday the panel will look into whether the decision by his predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, on the land reclamation project was legally sound.

“If the panel finds that the (former governor’s) authorization has flaws, then I’d respect that conclusion as much as possible,” Onaga said. “Even if there are no flaws, my policy of not allowing a new base to be built in the Henoko district (of Nago) won’t change and I’d like to think about what to do.”

Deputy Okinawa Gov. Mitsuo Ageda requested the local bureau of the Defense Ministry on Monday to refrain from conducting a drilling survey for the landfill in the Henoko district until the panel of experts submits its conclusion.

Onaga also urged prefectural police and Japan Coast Guard officials to consider the safety of citizens staging protests in the area.

The Futenma relocation is a sensitive issue in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military installations in Japan. In Tokyo on Sunday, thousands of protesters gathered outside the Diet to urge the government to stop the construction project.

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