Okinawa governor revokes approval for U.S. base relocation work at Henoko


Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga on Tuesday officially revoked the approval his predecessor issued to the central government for landfill work to replace a key U.S. military base within the prefecture, making the stalemate over the relocation plan likely to end up in court.

“It was recognized that there are defects in the approval. We decided that rescinding it is reasonable,” Onaga said at a news conference at the Okinawa Prefectural Government office building in Naha.

At issue is a controversial plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, a coastal region of Nago, from its current location in densely populated Ginowan.

The issue has long pitted the central government against local officials and residents who demand the base be moved outside of Okinawa.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the central government is considering taking legal action to suspend the governor’s revocation.

In a separate news conference, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said the central government will “promptly take action” to ask the infrastructure minister to suspend the revocation, although this will not take place Tuesday.

The central government is planning to start building a replacement facility for the Futenma base this fall.

Suga said the central government found “no legal flaws” in the approval for landfill work given in 2013 by former Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima.

“Revoking the approval is extremely regrettable as it ignores the efforts made so far by officials in Okinawa and the central government to eliminate the risks posed by the Futenma base,” Suga said, adding that construction work will continue as planned while taking “utmost care of the environment.”

Onaga, who notified the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the local office of the Defense Ministry in charge of the reclamation work, about the revocation Tuesday, reiterated his pledge “to take all possible measures so a new base will not be built in Henoko.”

Onaga’s decision came after the central and Okinawa governments failed to reach a compromise over the relocation of the Futenma base in their monthlong consultations ending in early September to defuse tensions over the issue.

The governor was elected last November on a platform of opposition to the contentious plan, and advocates relocation of the base outside Okinawa, as he and many local residents are seeking to reduce the burden on their prefecture, which has long hosted the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan.

  • FunkyB

    Instead of destroying an entire beautiful coral reef system as reefs are becoming more and more endangered by global warming, why not do what China is doing and just build an artificial island in a location that will neither bother people in Okinawa nor unnecessarily provoke any neighbors?

    • Starviking

      The Chinese artificial isalnds are being built on coral reefs.

    • Paul Shibata-Finn

      Maybe Japan should let China build a base there and we will just pull out and leave Japan to us a lot of money and bitching by un appreciative people..

    • Joe J.

      I wonder if anyone actually understood what must be the deliberate humor in that post. “neither bother people in Okinawa nor unnecessarily provoke any neighbors” Because threatening acts of War with the US for sailing in China’s “sovereign” waters off of their man made islands, in the middle of the shipping lanes for all of SE Asia is certainly not construed as “provoking”.

  • Douglas

    Why not build on the Senkaku Islands?

    • JimmyJM

      Think the Chinese might be a little upset? It would be interesting if Tokyo announced it was considering that and then watch what happens next.

  • Facebook User

    The US military is the biggest group of rapist and criminals in the world! Even in America we realize they are scum why should you be stuck with them!

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  • JimmyJM

    In the meanwhile, Futenma remains operational and a significant threat to the people living in the vicinity. The Governor’s priority should be to get that base out of there. What he has done insures the base will remain where it is. I’m sure he’s not cold enough to wish it to happen but an air accident in the vicinity would play into his hands. And his face remains on the front page and in the nightly news.

  • Liars N. Fools

    This is as much the responsibility of the central government in Japan and the American security authorities. We can expect the propaganda machinery in Tokyo and the Beltway to paint Governor Onaga in heinous terms, maybe even reviving the remarks from a State Department official in charge of Japan affairs who claimed the Okinawans are liars and masters of extortion. I heard he recently called on the Japanese government to just ignore the governor because the central government has that authority, he claimed.

  • kotowaza

    It’s strange to read the posts by people who have no earthly idea about what is going on in Okinawa. About the coral reef destruction: the jury is still out on whether global warming even is a real thing. Also, they are doing landfill over the reef right at the Naha airport I don’t hear any complaining. Futenma is dangerous but the Marines have to be here in this area, so by locking the construction, Onaga is actually increasing the risk to the people of Ginowan. Onaga went to the UN to report human rights violations. What an abuse of power!! When there are 3rd world countries out there who desperately need humanitarian attention, this crybaby goes to complain about some non-existent human rights complaints? The Tokyo govt puts billions of dollars into Okinawa to help them crest non-needed jobs and prop up an infrastructure that would never be sustainable with just revenue.