Even as the case finally makes its way to the courtroom, the national government and Okinawa Prefecture continue to view the dispute over relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from totally different perspectives. Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, appearing last week in the first court session on a lawsuit filed by the national government to override his revocation of prefectural permission to conduct landfill work at the planned replacement site in the Henoko area in Nago, said the matter should be considered in the overall context of Okinawa's postwar history and disproportionately heavy burden of hosting military bases under the Japan-U.S. security alliance.

The government, on the other hand, wants to focus on the legal and administrative questions over the governor's act of withdrawing the permit, which was issued by his predecessor two years ago. It also dismisses Onaga's challenge against the necessity of building the replacement airfield within Okinawa, saying that a prefectural governor can't determine matters of national security and diplomatic concern — meaning the construction and operation of U.S. military bases in Japan under the bilateral security treaty — because those fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the national government.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems fairly confident of winning the court battle with Okinawa, which began last Wednesday at the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court, just as it did 20 years ago, when the government successfully overruled then-Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota's refusal to sign documents for the leasing of land for the U.S. bases. The high court is expected to take several months before handing down its ruling, after which the case can be appealed to the Supreme Court.