Tokyo, March 4 (IANS) Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday ordered the suspension of construction of a new US military base in Okinawa prefecture.
“The government has decided to accept the court-mediated settlement plan,” said Defence Minister Nakatani.
The Abe administration has been clashing for months with the Okinawa government over the latter’s attempts to move the Futenma base from its present location to Henoko Bay, north of the prefecture’s main island, EFE news reported.
In November 2015, the Japanese government gave the go ahead for the construction of the new complex despite an order by Okinawa governor, Takeshi Onaga, revoking a permit to build the base, which had been granted by the previous government.
The two governments already have three cases in court regarding this issue which could finally be resolved now as the agreement plan proposes the three cases be withdrawn and the matter be resolved through talks.
The Tokyo government had agreed with Washington to move facilities to Henoko, an area much less populated than the current base in Futenma, in order to reduce its impact on local population.
The local government, however, rejected the shift on grounds that it poses a threat to the area’s environment and might prove to be detrimental to the local population.
The current base at Futenma, spread over 1,186 acres, is located in the centre of Ginowan town with a population of 94,000, surrounded by housings and public buildings, and has for years witnessed protests from citizens over the noise and possibility of accidents.
Okinawa is home to more than half of the nearly 47,000 troops that US maintains in Japan as well as 74 percent of US military facilities in the country.