• Kyodo

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The government might begin major repairs this year at a contentious U.S. military base in Okinawa Prefecture that’s at the center of a legal battle between the state and the prefecture, a government source said Friday.

The repairs at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma cover its aging barracks and hangar and could spur more local anger in the island prefecture, which has been trying to close the base and reacquire the land for decades.

The base in Ginowan is supposed to be moved to a less populated part of the island under a Japan-U.S. agreement. But construction of the replacement facility, off Nago, has been held up by the legal battle, with the prefectural government pushing to kick the base off Okinawa.

Defense Ministry officials say the government still intends to keep the repair work to a minimum and that it is not aimed at keeping the base open indefinitely.

The work is expected to cost several billion yen and be shouldered by the government. The United States demanded the repairs on the grounds that the aging facilities could hamper safe operation and performance of its forces.

Ever since the 1996 deal on returning the base site to Japanese control was signed, repairs have been limited to five projects from fiscal 2013 to 2017 costing about ¥5.6 billion ($55.8 million) to fix power lines and drainage and sewage facilities.

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