National / Crime & Legal

Dispute panel dismisses Okinawa complaint over legality of U.S. base relocation work at Henoko

Kyodo

A dispute resolution panel has rejected a complaint filed by the Okinawa governor over the central government’s authorization in October of landfill work for the relocation of the Futenma air base within the prefecture.

Calling the move “illegal,” Gov. Denny Tamaki had urged the panel to look into land minister Keiichi Ishii’s decision enabling the central government to move ahead with the controversial landfill work required to build a replacement facility for Futenma.

The panel under the internal affairs ministry is tasked with issuing recommendations when it recognizes the central government has illegally intervened in a municipality’s administration.

However, Kazuhiro Tomikoshi, the head of the panel and a former president of the Tokyo High Court, said the five-member panel dismissed the case without substantially examining the legality of Ishii’s decision, as it does not fall within the panel’s remit.

Tamaki said in a statement Monday he was “extremely disappointed” that his argument had been rejected. A senior official said the Okinawa Prefectural Government will examine the content of the panel’s decision and make preparations to take the case to court.

The central and Okinawa governments have long been at odds over the relocation of the Futenma base from the built-up city of Ginowan to the less-populated Henoko coastal area of Nago.

The central government has been pushing ahead with the relocation despite strong local opposition but had to halt the work after the prefectural government retracted its permission last August. Ishii then countered Okinawa’s move by authorizing the relocation work.

Full-fledged land reclamation work in the Henoko coastal area began in December.

Many local people have called for Futenma’s functions to be moved outside Okinawa Prefecture, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.