NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – The Okinawa Prefectural Government will file a fresh lawsuit against the central government next month to demand that work on the replacement for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma be halted, the governor said.
The move will reignite the legal tussle between the prefecture and the central government over the long-stalled replacement plan for the base, which is situated in Ginowan. The new airstrip is being built on landfill off less-populated Henoko, a coastal part of Nago further north on the main island adjacent to the marines’ Camp Schwab.
The central government began building the seawalls for the replacement facility amid local protests in late April, four months after the Okinawa Prefectural Government lost its case for blocking the project in the Supreme Court.
According to the plan, the central government will fill in some 157 hectares of land off the Henoko area to build two runways in a V pattern.
“The government is in great haste to go ahead with reclamation work without regard (for Okinawa) and achieve a fait accompli, but base construction is absolutely unacceptable,” Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga said at a news conference Wednesday.
Onaga said his government plans to submit a bill needed to file the lawsuit to the prefectural assembly when it convenes later this month. The bill is expected to clear the assembly.
The prefectural government also plans to file for an injunction to block the construction work even before the court hands down a ruling.
Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine told reporters that both the lawsuit and injunction could provide a way to halt the landfill work.
Opposition to the project remains fierce in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan. Local residents have demanded that the Futenma base be removed from the prefecture altogether.
Residents are also concerned the landfill work will have a huge impact on the marine environment, which hosts coral reefs and a habitat for the endangered dugong, a relative of the manatee.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga defended the government’s decision to proceed with reclamation work.
“The government sees absolutely no problem” with its actions, the top government spokesman said in a news conference.
The central government restarted the reclamation work without securing permission from the governor. The permit expired at the end of March, but Tokyo says there is no need for a new one because fishing rights in the Henoko area have already been canceled through legal procedures.
But the prefecture has said that the fishing rights have not lapsed because the governor did not issue his approval, and will argue in court that Tokyo is acting illegally.
Last December, the top court ruled in favor of the central government, saying it was “illegal” for Onaga to revoke his predecessor’s approval for the landfill work, which was required for the relocation plan to begin.
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