• Kyodo

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The Okinawa Prefectural Government filed a fresh lawsuit against the central government Monday, seeking a halt in work at the relocation site for the U.S. Futenma air base.

It was the latest shot in Okinawa’s long-running fight against the plan to relocate the functions currently handled by U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to the less populated Henoko coastal area of Nago, partly by reclaiming land off the coastal area.

The move follows a Supreme Court ruling in December that Gov. Takeshi Onaga’s attempt to revoke his predecessor’s 2013 decision to approve the land reclamation work was illegal.

In the fresh lawsuit filed with the Naha District Court, the prefectural government argues that the central government is acting illegally by not securing permission from the governor for work that involves damaging rock on the seabed where fishing rights have been granted.

Okinawa also filed an injunction to block the construction work before the court hands down a ruling.

The central government, meanwhile, plans to argue that legal precedent shows that the prefecture’s complaint is unlawful and it does not need the permission.

Onaga told a news conference the prefectural government cannot accept the central government acting without permission.

“The state will be questioned again for its stance to push through the construction of the new base while leaving behind the feelings of the people of Okinawa,” he said.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined comment, other than to say the central government won’t change its stance.

According to Okinawa Prefecture’s rules on fisheries adjustment, permission from the governor is needed if certain work involves destroying rock in the area where fishing rights are granted.

Okinawa wants the central government to apply for a renewal of permission for damaging rock, which expired in March. But the central government argues that a local fisheries cooperative had given up the fishing rights.

The central government has so far not carried out work that involves crushing rock, but the prefectural government took legal action, saying, “It is certain to be conducted in the future and the work is illegal.”

The central government argues the new lawsuit won’t be subject to a trial after the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that the central or a prefectural or local government cannot bring a suit seeking others to comply with ordinances or rules.

The first stage of the land reclamation process saw the central government begin building seawalls for the facility in Nago adjacent to Camp Schwab, in late April, following its victory in legal wrangling at the top court over the base relocation plan.

To complete construction of the new base, the central government is scheduled to fill in around 157 hectares of land in the water off the Henoko area and construct runways in a V-shaped configuration.

Many people in Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, want the Futenma base to be moved outside the prefecture altogether.

Japan and the United States agreed in 1996 on the return of the land used for the Futenma base and announced in 2006 a road map for realigning the U.S. military presence in Japan, which included transferring Futenma’s functions to the Henoko coastal area.

The central government has maintained that the relocation plan is “the only solution” for removing the dangers posed by the Futenma base without undermining the deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. alliance. Futenma sits in a densely populated district in the city of Ginowan.

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