National / Crime & Legal

Okinawa to file fresh lawsuit in bid to block relocation of U.S. Marine base

Kyodo

The Okinawa Prefectural Government will file a new lawsuit against the central government Monday to block ongoing construction work at the relocation site for a contentious U.S. Marine base, local government sources said Friday.

The move will reignite the legal dispute between the central and local governments, long at odds over the plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to the less populated Henoko coastal area of Nago. The plan calls for filling in land off Henoko.

In the lawsuit, the Okinawa Prefectural Government is expected to argue that the central government is acting illegally without securing permission rights from the governor for work that involves damaging rock on the seabed where fishing rights have been granted.

The government of Okinawa has urged the central government to apply to renew the permission rights, which expired in March. For its part, the central government maintains that the fishing rights in the Henoko area were suspended through legal procedures and that it does not need permission.

The central government has so far not carried out work that involves crushing rock, but the prefectural government plans to take legal action because “it is certain to be conducted in the future,” according to the sources.

As the first stage of the land reclamation process, the central government began building seawalls for the planned replacement facility for the Futenma base in late April, following its victory in legal wrangling at the Supreme Court over the base relocation plan.

Sand and soil are eventually expected to be poured inside the seawalls, which opponents fear will have a huge impact on the marine environment, affecting coral reefs and endangered dugong habitat.

Under the plan to transfer the flight functions of the Futenma airfield to the site adjacent to Camp Schwab, the central government is scheduled to reclaim around 157 hectares of land in waters off the Henoko area and construct a runway with a V confirguation.

Many people in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in the nation, want the Futenma base removed from the prefecture altogether.