The central government will approve a design change for a U.S. military base relocation project in the Henoko coastal area of Okinawa Prefecture by proxy on behalf of the prefectural government on Thursday, land minister Tetsuo Saito said on Tuesday.

The approval of the Defense Ministry's design change application will mark the central government's first-ever proxy execution of a local government administrative task since the measure became available under the local autonomy law as part of decentralization efforts in 2000.

After the planned approval by proxy, the government is expected to start work to reinforce soft ground on the Oura Bay side to the east of Cape Henoko as early as Jan. 12. The work is part of the project to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma air base, currently in a heavily populated area in the Okinawa city of Ginowan, to the coastal district in the city of Nago.