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Government against people: Japan to resume construction of U.S. base

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Staff Writer | October 31, 2018
Keiichi Ishii
Asia   Japanese Land Minister Keiichi Ishii

Japanese Land Minister Keiichi Ishii issued an injunction on Tuesday paving the way for the Defense Ministry to resume the landfill work for the relocation of a controversial U.S. military base within Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday indicated that the central government plans to resume the landfill work for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to the less populated coastal district of Henoko in Nago, now that the land ministry has suspended Okinawa's move to block the work.

"Now that necessary legal procedures have been taken, I think we should respect them," Abe was quoted as telling a Diet session after the decision was made earlier in the day.

"I'll make every effort to realize the return of land used by the Futenma base as soon as possible," the prime minister added.

In making its decision, the land ministry said that further delays in the relocation of the base could harm the U.S.-Japan alliance and Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said he will move ahead and resume the reclamation work.

But Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki has blasted the land minister's injunction, telling a press briefing in Tokyo that the injunction has no substance and cannot be justified.

"I can only feel strong resentment because of this judgment, which is devoid of fairness and neutrality," Tamaki said.

Tamaki had previously said that the central government's continued push to continue the landfill work is completely unacceptable and against the will of Okinawans who wish to see the base moved outside of Okinawa and Japan altogether.

He said the central government's move "tramples on the will of voters shown in the Okinawa gubernatorial election and is totally unacceptable."

Tamaki became Okinawa governor on Oct. 4 following the death of his predecessor Governor Takeshi Onaga and has been urging the central government to reduce Okinawa's disproportionate base-hosting burdens.

Prior to his death, Onaga revoked a landfill permit necessary for the construction of the new base and Tamaki has said that he was trusted by Onaga, himself a staunch opponent to the base move, before his death, to uphold his wishes and those of the people of Okinawa and continue to block the central government's plans to move the base.

When filing the injunction, Tamaki said he was indignant at the central government's move to forge ahead with relocating the U.S. base to the pristine Henoko region in Okinawa, as days earlier in face-to-face talks with Abe in Tokyo, he had sought to seek resolution to the issue through dialogue.

While the central government's stance on the issue appears to be unwavering, as per a bilateral agreement made between Japan and the U.S. in 1996, Tamaki has intimated that he may petition Washington over the deal as it runs contrary to the will of the people of Okinawa.

Tamaki said Tuesday the prefectural government will study the decision and may move to apply for screening by the Central and Local Government Dispute Management Council under the auspices of Japan's Internal Affairs Ministry.

Tamaki went on to say that he will continue to do everything in his power to keep his campaign pledge of blocking the construction of the new U.S. base.

Okinawa hosts the vast majority of Japan's U.S. bases, yet the tiny subtropical island accounts for just a fraction of Japan's total land mass.

Instances of violent crimes, including murder and rape by U.S. military-linked personnel along with a near constant string of U.S. military related accidents, particularly those involving aircraft, have led to rising anti-U.S. sentiment on the island.


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