The Japanese government will soon take a countermeasure against the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s recent move to block landfill work for a key U.S. military base transfer within the island prefecture, a central government source said Tuesday.
The central government wants to resume work for the controversial relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a coastal area by asking the land minister Wednesday at the earliest to invalidate the Okinawa government’s decision, according to the source.
The landfill work was approved in 2013 by then-Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, but his successor, Takeshi Onaga, who died in office in August, revoked the approval in 2015. In a court battle that followed, the revocation was found to be illegal and Onaga rescinded it in late 2016.
On Aug. 31, Okinawa Prefecture again retracted the landfill work approval as instructed earlier by Onaga, citing illegality in the relocation work procedure. The base construction has been put on hold since.
The government is seeking to relocate the U.S. base’s operations from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to the less-populated coastal district of Henoko in Nago based on the Japan-U.S. agreement in 1996. Japan chose Henoko as the replacement site in 1999.
Onaga’s successor, Denny Tamaki, wants the base out of the prefecture, which has long hosted the bulk of the U.S. forces in Japan.
The Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, which oversees land reclamation, is expected to launch an examination on the legitimacy of the approval revocation by Okinawa.
The central government apparently refrained from taking a countermeasure until after the Sept. 30 gubernatorial election to avoid a backlash from Okinawa residents.
Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya has not commented on when the government might implement any countermeasures against the retraction.