NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga on Friday snubbed a central government recommendation that his local government retract its revocation of a landfill work approval to relocate a U.S. military air base within the island prefecture.
The recommendation from land minister Keiichi Ishii was made as part of the central government’s bid to overrule the governor and formally retract the revocation.
At a news conference in Naha, the prefectural capital, Onaga said he “cannot comply with the recommendation” because the original decision by his predecessor to approve the landfill work was “faulty” and that his action to revoke it was therefore legal.
The governor said he has sent a letter to Ishii to inform the minister of his decision, and that he also sent him a question regarding the minister’s recent suspension of the governor’s revocation of the landfill work approval.
As early as next week, the minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism is expected to instruct Onaga to retract his revocation, but it is believed the governor will not yield.
The central government is then expected to take the matter to court, possibly by the end of this month, in a bid to empower itself to retract the governor’s revocation.
In line with an accord between Japan and the United States, work has begun to build a base in the Henoko coastal area of Nago on the main island of Okinawa to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, further south on the same island.
Onaga has led efforts to move a Futenma replacement facility outside of the prefecture as residents and others opposed to seeing a new U.S. military facility built in Henoko have clashed with police near the construction site.
At Friday’s news conference, Onaga criticized the central government’s decision to send in riot police squads from Tokyo to reinforce the local police force guarding the Marines’ Camp Schwab base, part of which overlaps the site of the planned replacement facility.
The central government, he said, “is doing whatever it takes to proceed with the relocation, such as by sending in Metropolitan Police Department in massive numbers.”
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the question sent by the governor regarding the state’s earlier action will be handled properly according to law and regulations.
Suga declined to comment on Onaga’s rejection earlier in the day of the state’s recommendation that the governor retract his revocation for the landfill work in Henoko.
In parallel to its latest move, the Okinawa government earlier this month filed a complaint with the third-party Central and Local Government Dispute Management Council over the land minister’s suspension late last month of the governor’s revocation.
If the council comes out in favor of the central government, the local government plans to sue the state over the case to see its revocation restored.
The Henoko landfill work was approved in December 2013 by former Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima.
Onaga, who defeated the incumbent in an election last Nov. 4 on his pledge to block the base relocation to Henoko, proceeded to revoke the approval on Oct. 13.