Land minister Keiichi Ishii stepped up pressure Monday on Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga to retract his moves to block landfill work for the replacement facility for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Ishii’s move to issue an “instruction” to Onaga, which follows a “recommendation,” is part of the central government’s bid to take the issue to court to reinstate the prefectural government’s approval for landfill work needed to transfer the Futenma base from a crowded residential district in the city of Ginowan to the less-populated Henoko coastal area in Nago, farther north on Okinawa Island.
Ishii sent a document to Onaga by mail on Monday, urging the governor to retract his earlier revocation of the approval within three days. If Onaga refuses to yield, the central government plans to file a lawsuit with a high court, possibly by the end of this month.
Wrangling between the local and central governments has been intensifying since Onaga on Oct. 13 revoked the land reclamation work approval granted by his predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, in 2013.
The central government countered the move by suspending the revocation’s validity on Oct. 27 and starting procedures to overrule the governor and retract the revocation, citing its view that the current situation will cause “serious damage in terms of diplomacy and defense.”
Ishii, the minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, first sent a document on Oct. 28 to “recommend” that Onaga backpedal, but the governor snubbed that request on Friday.
The prefectural government and many residents in Okinawa are opposed to the relocation plan as they are seeking to reduce the burden on their prefecture from hosting the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan.