NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – The Defense Ministry on Thursday resumed an offshore boring survey in Okinawa Prefecture for construction of the replacement base for the U.S. Futenma airfield, angering local opponents.
“This is utterly deplorable,” said Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who was elected in November on a pledge to block the construction project.
“I will take every possible means to realize my campaign pledge of not allowing a base in Henoko,” he told reporters in Tokyo, referring to the coastal district in the town of Nago where the offshore base is to be built.
Meanwhile, about 40 people held a protest in Okinawa to criticize the central government for “bulldozing” the plan through.
But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the central government “will carry on without making a fuss, while making sure the environment (there) will be preserved.”
The Defense Ministry’s bureau in Okinawa, which initially began the boring in August, suspended the work after about a month due to bad weather, and in apparent consideration of the November gubernatorial election.
Opponents of the construction plan won the gubernatorial race, as well as all four of Okinawa’s single-seat districts in the snap Lower House elections in December.
In a sign of the deepening rift between the central government and local officials, Onaga indicated in February the prefecture may withdraw its permission for rock-drilling work, an integral part of the boring survey needed to proceed with the landfill operation.
Onaga is also eyeing the possibility of rescinding approval for the landfill work his predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, issued in late 2013.
He has already requested that the central government suspend the boring work until an investigation by the prefecture into the legality of the land reclamation is concluded.
Asked about the request, Suga said: “Our country is governed by the rule of law, and our procedures are based on law. The permission for the landfill work has no legal issues at all, so our position to proceed with the work remains unchanged.”
The Okinawa Defense Bureau needs the survey to determine the geological conditions at the site. It is considering pushing back the survey’s completion date, now scheduled for March 31. But Defense Minister Gen Nakatani has said the government wants to start reclamation work around the summer, as planned.
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