The central government may seek damages from Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga if he continues to attempt to impede the relocation of an unpopular U.S. military base in the prefecture, the government’s top spokesman hinted Monday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga made the remarks after Onaga said Saturday at a rally that he will “employ all means” to revoke his predecessor’s approval of land reclamation work for replacing U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The base is to move from Ginowan to Nago, but the governor wants it out of the prefecture altogether.
“In general, it’s an illegal abuse of authority for administrative chiefs to use powers given to them under the law for a different purpose than the one (stipulated) in the law,” Suga told a news conference.
“It’s conceivable that the state could employ the necessary legal measures, including executing our right to seek damages, in response to such illegal acts,” he said.
The Japanese and U.S. governments say building replacement runways in Henoko, a coastal area of Nago set to host the base, is the only solution to the problems at the base’s current location in Ginowan without undermining the deterrent power of the Japan-U.S. alliance.
After winning the governor’s seat in 2014 by campaigning on an anti-base platform, Onaga tried to revoke his predecessor’s December 2013 approval of the land reclamation work but lost his case in the Supreme Court last December.
The Okinawa Prefectural Government has argued that approval can be revoked in light of the change in circumstances since it was given, based on election results reflecting local disapproval of the base transfer plan.
The central government resumed construction of the replacement base after the Supreme Court ruling. In February, it began conducting offshore work as part of bank protection efforts expected to begin next month.
“The state and Okinawa Prefecture have both agreed to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling, based on a settlement we reached last year, and naturally we want to quietly proceed with construction in accordance with the ruling,” Suga said Monday.
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