National / Politics

Ginowan residents lose suit against block on transfer of Futenma base

Kyodo

A district court in Okinawa Prefecture dismissed on Tuesday a lawsuit filed by citizens of Ginowan, current host of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, against Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga’s decision to block the base’s relocation within the prefecture.

In the suit filed with the Naha District Court, a dozen residents in the city sought revocation of Onaga’s decision and ¥120 million ($1 million) in damages, claiming the decision would force the base to remain in the crowded city, infringing on their right to live a life of peace. The number of plaintiffs eventually increased to 112.

In handing down the ruling, presiding Judge Hajime Morikagi did not admit the plaintiffs’ standing to sue, and said the suit is not legitimate. He also said there is no basis for the compensation claim against the governor.

Last Oct. 13, Onaga repealed the approval by his predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, of reclamation work in the Henoko area of Nago, northern Okinawa Island, to build a replacement airstrip for the Futenma base, saying the approval includes errors.

The suit said the revocation amounts to the governor abusing his authority since there were no errors related to Nakaima’s approval, and that any delay in the return of land used for the base to Ginowan would leave local citizens’ rights endangered for longer.

After Japan and the United States agreed in 1996 to move the Futenma base operations from Ginowan, the central government decided in March 2013 to relocate them on reclaimed land in the Henoko area.

Then Okinawa Gov. Nakaima approved the land reclamation plan in December that year before Onaga won the governorship in 2014 with his pledge to block the base relocation to Henoko.