• Kyodo, Staff Report

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In yet another controversial development, a third-party panel on disputes between the central and local governments has dodged Okinawa Prefecture’s request on the panel to screen the land minister’s decision to go ahead with the reclamation of the Henoko area as part of work to build a replacement facility for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

Mitsuo Kobayakawa, chairman of the panel under the internal affairs ministry, said early Friday he turned down the request submitted by Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga on the Henoko land-fill work.

With the latest development, the tug-of-war between the central government and Okinawa Prefecture will be brought before a court, as Okinawa plans to file a lawsuit with the Naha District Court demanding the nullification of land minister Keiichi Ishii’s decision.

In October, Ishii suspended Onaga’s decision to cancel the land-fill permit for the Henoko area in Nago, a key part of the work to build a replacement facility for the Futenma airbase.

Political wrangling between Tokyo and Okinawa has intensified since Onaga on Oct. 13 revoked the approval granted by his predecessor in 2013 for the central government to carry out the land-fill work.

The panel meeting began Thursday evening and continued for seven hours until around midnight Friday. Citing the provisions of the Local Autonomy Law, Kobayakawa said the matter is not subject to the panel’s screenings.

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