With the start of work to construct part of seawalls for land reclamation on the shores of the Henoko area of Nago,Okinawa Prefecture, the project to build a replacement facility for the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma has entered a critical stage. The work will not only irreparably destroy the natural environment of the site, including the habitat of the critically endangered Okinawa dugong, but also could ignite tenacious resistance from Okinawans, including more legal action by Gov. Takeshi Onaga to halt the construction, further deepening the standoff between the national government and the prefecture.

The Abe administration should stop and think whether it's the right policy to stick to the Henoko plan as the "only solution" to the Futenma problem. The government should first consider whether it is necessary to build the Henoko facility at a time when the capabilities of the U.S. forces and Self-Defense Forces are being beefed up elsewhere.

The U.S. Air Force has Kadena Air Base on the same island — the largest U.S. military installation in the Asia-Pacific region. In January, the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture started receiving a squadron of F-35B stealth fighters. Some 60 carrier-borne aircraft will also start moving to Iwakuni in July from the Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Kanagawa Prefecture, increasing the number of aircraft there to about 120. The Ground Self-Defense Force will establish a 3,000-member amphibious strike force, which will include Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, in 2018 to defend Okinawa and other islands. These developments seem to weaken the case for building a new base in Okinawa to take over Futenma's functions.